Cash jet pilot seeking release on new laundering, trafficking charges

Having served a one-year sentence for bulk cash smuggling, disgraced US-based Guyanese pilot Khamraj Lall is fighting his continued incarceration on new money laundering and drug trafficking charges and has argued through his lawyer that he is neither a flight risk or a violent person.

Lall was sentenced in 2016 by US District Judge Jay A. Garcia-Gregory to one year in prison and his private jet and over half a million US dollars seized from him were forfeited to the US government after he had pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling.

At the time of his sentencing, Lall also faced charges both in New Jersey and in New York for alleged money laundering and drug trafficking.

While he was defending the charges in New York during the year he was incarcerated, the cases in New Jersey had not progressed, according to his lawyer Michael D’Alessio, Jr. However, in August of this year, the prosecution in New Jersey filed a new indictment, this time charging Lall with four crimes. He is now facing a conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to structure funds, conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, all allegedly committed between April, 2011 and November, 2014.

Khamraj Lall

Following the filing of the new indictment, which also included a new forfeiture application, the charges in New York were discontinued since the prosecution acknowledged that they were similar to the ones he now faces in New Jersey.

Lall appeared before Judge Michael A. Shipp earlier this month on the newly-filed charges and was further remanded to prison.

In a recently filed motion to have Lall released, D’Alessio pointed out that his client was charged with money structuring and drug trafficking in New York and a charge of structuring funds to avoid filing and reporting the required tax in New Jersey on June 18, 2015. He was arrested on July 22 of the same year on the New York warrant that was issued for him and New Jersey complaint.

The lawyer stated that the authorities in New Jersey did not move on any of the matters until it filed the new indictment in August with the same charges he faced in New York even though between the time of his arrest and the filing of the new indictment he was defending the matter in New York.

Arguing for his client to be granted bail, D’Alessio pointed out that the presumption of risk of flight and danger to community does not apply to his client. He argued that to deny his client on the basis of him being a flight risk was wrong and unsubstantiated since he has no means to flee the jurisdiction and his bail package serves to eliminate both his ability to leave the jurisdiction and any incentive to do so.

On the point of his client being a danger to the community, as is assumed in such cases, the lawyer pointed out that no court had deemed him so nor had the government alleged that he posed a threat. Rather, he said Lall was detained solely on the basis of him being viewed a flight risk.

The lawyer noted that prior to him being charged, Lall enjoyed a law-abiding and successful life since his move to the US with his family at the age of 14. He later became a US citizen, got married and had three children with his wife, and they all resided in the family home in New Jersey.

While the lawyer conceded that his client had business ties in Guyana and travelled frequently here, he said Lall’s family ties are strongly in the US. It was pointed out that he was granted bail in Puerto Rico on the cash bulk smuggling charge and he abided by the conditions of his release until he was sentenced.

According to D’Alessio, Lall also has no means to evade authorities since he no longer owns any airplanes nor does he possess a passport. He is also proposing an ankle bracelet to monitor his client’s whereabouts if granted bail and his family has also offered two homes to secure his appearance.

Further, the lawyer also argued that his client’s continued detention violates his Fifth Amendment Due Process Rights. He pointed out that his client has been in custody since July, 2015, a period of over two years.

“Such detention is constitutionally repugnant at this point because it has become penal in nature and has ceased to serve proper purpose under the Bail Reform Act,” the lawyer stated in the motion.

Additionally, D’Alessio argued that Lall’s continued detention offends due process. He pointed out that the delay was caused predominantly by the government’s failure to actively prosecute the matter in a timely manner.

Should he remain incarcerated, he said, it will present substantial obstacles to the preparation of Lall’s defence since there are thousands of financial and business records that need to be reviewed. Without Lall’s participation in the preparation, the lawyer said, his case cannot be adequately defended. “It is physically impossible to bring to Mr. Lall all of the documentary and other materials needed to prepare his defence,” he argued, while adding that his client’s right to counsel would also be grossly impaired.

Lall’s legal woes began in November of 2014. It was then that searches of his private aircraft during a refueling stop at the Luis Munoz International Airport, in San Juan uncovered US$620,000 stashed aboard. Lall was travelling to Guyana at the time.

Lall’s case had highlighted his close links to the former PPP/C government. He had been granted permission to construct a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and had flown then President Donald Ramotar on official trips on several occasions. These reports triggered consternation and questions as to what due diligence had been carried out on him before the decision was made to assign him a private hangar.

Ramotar later said that while he travelled on the plane owned and flown by Lall while he was president, those decisions were not personally made and were done through and paid for officially by the Office of the President.

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