After using his private jet to transport cocaine from Guyana to the United States, Guyanese pilot Khamraj Lall now faces a long jail term following a unanimous jury conviction on Thursday for eight counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering.
Lall, who hobnobbed with politicians from the former administration and had even transported then President Donald Ramotar, is to be sentenced on January 8th, 2019 in the courtroom of Judge Anne E. Thompson. His possessions, inclusive of two aircraft and one high end vehicle, will now be forfeited.
It has been over three years since Lall, who flew to Guyana frequently and even had a private hanger at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (CJIA), was slapped with the money laundering and drug trafficking charges. He had previously pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling and 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.
Lall’s legal woes began in November of 2014, when searches of his private aircraft during a refueling stop at the Luis Munoz International Airport, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, uncovered US$620,000 that was stashed aboard the plane. Lall was travelling to Guyana at the time.
On Thursday, Lall was found guilty of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, two counts of money laundering, engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, two counts of structuring financial transaction to evade reporting requirements, conspiracy to structure funds, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
As it relates to the last count, according to the Superseding Indictment, from or about April, 2011 through in or about November, 2014, in Passaic County, in the District of New Jersey, Lall did knowingly and intentionally conspire with others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilogrammes or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine in violation of Title 21 of the United States Code, Section 846.
The indictment said in the first count that it was the object of Lall and others to launder the proceeds of their cocaine-trafficking activities. He used his private jet aircraft that he owned through his businesses, including Exec Jet Club, to important quantities of cocaine from Guyana to the United States. It was further alleged that as part of the conspiracy Lall would then distribute the cocaine to other individuals, who agreed with him to sell cocaine and return the cash proceeds to him.
Lall and his co-conspirators then deposited or direct others to deposit the cash proceeds from the cocaine distribution in amounts less than US$10,000 into various bank accounts, including but not limited to accounts in his name, his wife’s name, his mother’s name, the names of his three minor children, and in the names of his companies, Exec Jet Club, Exec Jet Sales, KL Express and Kaylees Investments.
The convict and others also smuggled cash proceeds from cocaine distribution back to Guyana and purchased substantial assets using the cocaine proceeds, including jet aircraft and residential properties.
Now that he has been convicted, the US authorities would be moving to seize lands and buildings located at 104 Coventry Way, Ringwood, New Jersey, 1551 NE 161st Place, Citra, Florida, 170 Neelytown Road, Hamptonbrugh, New York and 417 Bedlington Ct, Kissimmee, FL 34758. The authorities will also seize any and all assets and rights of Exec Jet Club.
Also to be forfeited are two fixed-wing aircraft and one Lexus GX Wagon and a total of US$442, 743.59.
At the time of his sentencing for cash smuggling, Lall had 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. However, in August of 2017, the prosecution in New Jersey filed a new indictment, this time charging Lall with four crimes. He then faced the conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to structure funds, conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, all committed between April, 2011 and November, 2014.
Following the filing of the new indictment, which had 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 had a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri and he had also used his jet to fly then president Ramotar to Brazil on an official trip. Following his arrest in Puerto Rico, the PPP/C government had been strongly criticised for its connections to Lall and over his being given a private hangar.
Ramotar has since said that utilising Lall’s service was a cheaper option in all instances although he did not release a cost.
And although sources from both customs and immigration and the CJIA had said that Exec Jet staff, especially Lall, were granted waivers on security checks when coming into Guyana, former Transport Minister Robeson Benn had dismissed those claims that Lall was granted any waivers from regular CJIA security and customs protocol.