Owner of plane held by SOCU released

The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) on Sunday afternoon released the owner of the airplane who was detained at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport at Ogle last week as part of a money-laundering probe.

Stabroek News was informed yesterday that the maximum 72 hours in custody came to an end and as such he was released on bail. The aircraft is still in custody.

Persons close to the man who is originally from Pomeroon and who has gold dredging operations both in Guyana and Venezuela are adamant that there is no evidence that he committed any wrongdoing. They also expressed concerns that up to now investigators have not properly explained why he was detained. It was made clear that the businessman has declared hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold to the Guyana Gold Board.

Based on the information provided to Stabroek News, when he was held he was returning with his children and relatives who had spent time with him in Venezuela.

The Beechcraft BE 58 plane, bearing registration number YV-2377, had arrived here from Puerto Ordaz in Venezuela on Wednesday and was promptly detained.

It was explained that because of the economic crisis facing Venezuela, aircraft have  been sold there very cheap. A source close to the businessman said that one can buy a good quality plane for as little as $20M and the aviation fuel is also very cheap. “It is cheaper to buy your plane, fly it and come yourself”, the source said before explaining that otherwise you have to use a longer route through Trinidad.

It was pointed out that because of the lack of flights, the businessman uses his private aircraft to transport food and his family and would occasionally transport persons.

According to the source every time the businessman, who was charged with murder several years ago, lands here the craft is searched by several different agencies.

SOCU Head Sydney James had confirmed the seizure of the plane, while stating that “SOCU has detained an aircraft as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation.” He had declined to release more information.

Roraima Airways is the ground handling agent for the aircraft. Roraima Airways head, Gerry Gouveia, when contacted, had said that the plane arrived on Wednesday and was scheduled to leave the following day. He was also unable to provide any additional information on the matter.

The detention of the plane came just weeks after passengers and crew of another aircraft were detained at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, before being released and cleared of any wrongdoing.

On July 10th, four Venezuelan businessmen landed at the CJIA on the chartered aircraft along with the pilot and co-pilot.

According to sources, Guyanese pilot Michael Brassington invited the men to discuss investments in the oil and gas sector here and had scheduled meetings before arriving. The following day the pilots were arrested by police and the passengers and Brassington turned themselves over to law enforcement authorities.

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