Guyanese pilot Khamraj Lall has agreed to forfeit the aircraft on which he was transporting over US$600,000 along with the cash and may spend less than five years in prison, according to the plea agreement he has entered into with the US government.
Yesterday Lall, represented by attorney Rafael F Castro-Lang, appeared before Magistrate Judge Bruce J Mc Giverin and officially changed his not guilty plea to guilty after he was found competent to plead.
According to the plea agreement, released yesterday and seen by this newspaper, Lall pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment which states that he knowingly concealed more than US$10,000 and other monetary instruments in an article of luggage, merchandise and container and attempted to transport and transfer such currency and monetary instruments from a plane in the US to a place outside the US, that is Guyana.
The penalty for this offence is a term of imprisonment of not more than five years and the forfeiture of all property involved in the offence and any property traceable to such property.
In addition, the court could order Lall to pay a fine sufficient to reimburse the government for the costs of any imprisonment, probation or supervised release ordered and may also impose restitution. As part of the deal, he also “agrees to produce complete information regarding all restitution victims” and to execute a financial statement to the US.
Meanwhile, the prosecution will recommend a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. The government will take control of the full amount of the cash (US$620,000) found as well as the aircraft.
Lall also has to hand over all the related aircraft maintenance log books, consisting of airframe, power plant and engine and flight log books. In exchange for the guilty plea, the government foregoes the right to see a statutory penalty against Lall and will only argue for a sentence within the guidelines as stipulated in the plea document.
Lall waives all constitutional and statutory challenges in any manner to any forfeiture carried out in accordance with the plea agreements on any grounds, including that the forfeiture constitutes an excessive fine or punishment.
He also agrees to pass clear title to forfeiture assets to the US officials, and to testify truthfully in any judicial forfeiture proceedings.
The court will now prepare a pre-sentence report but no date has been set for sentencing and Lall remains on US$10,000 bail.
The pilot who is 47 and Chief Executive Officer of the Exec Jet Club, which has since become defunct, remains confined to his New Jersey home except for travel to Puerto Rico for his court hearings.
Searches of Lall’s private aircraft during a refuelling stop at the Luis Munoz International Airport, in San Juan, on November 22 last year, uncovered the cash. US$150,000 was wrapped in plastic bags and a blanket under the exit row seat and US$470,000, in a black suitcase, was found inside a compartment next to the engines. Lall was travelling to Guyana at the time.
Lall, authorities said, accepted responsibility and ownership of the money and informed that his co-pilot and his father, who were travelling with him at the time, had nothing to do with the cash.
In addition to bulk cash smuggling, Lall is also the subject of a forfeiture action brought by the US government for a total of US$442,743 held in 14 accounts controlled by him, his wife Nadinee, his mother or connected businesses.
According to United States authorities, during a three-and-a-half year period, over 1,000 deposits totalling US$6.3 million were strategically placed into bank accounts controlled by Lall and his mother Joyce Lall in order to avoid detection of the movements of the funds. The authorities contend that deposits into the accounts were illegally “structured” to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports (CTRs), while the funds were used, in part, to purchase and/or improve Lall’s “nonmonetary properties,” comprising real estate, aircraft and a Lexus vehicle.
In addition to cash held in the 14 bank accounts, authorities are also going after three properties owned by the couple, the aircraft and the Lexus.