Lethem businessman in custody for illegal airstrip in Region 9

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Following the arrest of a regional contractor in connection with the discovery of an illegal airstrip and the seizure of an aircraft in Region 9 (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), a prominent businessman has been taken into custody for allegedly hiring the contractor to prepare the illegal airstrip.

Several pieces of equipment have been seized from both the contractor and the businessman.

The frontload grader seized from the contractor and sitting in the compound of the Lethem Police Station

The plane was seized after police and other security officials had journeyed to the Santa Fe area amid reports of strange flights and discovered illegal fuel and other items near a makeshift airstrip.

A number of men were seen running away from the aircraft when Joint Services officials descended upon the area.
Reports from Lethem are that the Joint Services officers also seized the contractor’s equipment following his arrest on Monday last. On Friday, the businessman was taken into custody and brought from Lethem to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters at Eve Leary to be questioned.

Some equipment belonging to the businessman were also reportedly seized and are at the Lethem Police Station.

According to reports, the man had carried out works at Yupukari in 2016, where his company undertook works to a sanitary facility in the village, and persons in the area noted that the contractor has close Brazilian relationships.

It is alleged that the contractor used his front-end loader to build an illegal airstrip about 10 miles from Santa Fe.

Fifty-four-hundred-foot-long by 45 feet wide, the airstrip appeared to have undergone recent repairs when it was discovered. This strip had been discovered and destroyed by the GDF only a few years ago. The aircraft landed while the ranks were making their way back to the airstrip.

This Beechcraft luxury plane, bearing registration PT-IMG, was discovered and seized by the GDF

The police secured the Beechcraft luxury plane, bearing registration PT-IMG, after several men were seen running away from the scene two Sundays ago. The aircraft had suffered some minor mechanical damages, and those were repaired and the plane was flown to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) by the army just over a week ago.

President David Granger had said the Guyanese authorities are treating the discovery of the twin engine Beechcraft as a matter of national security, and would be determining the fate of the plane following the investigation. He said an investigation has been launched to determine whether the twin engine Beechcraft landed at the illegal airstrip as a sign of distress, or for illegal reasons.

A history of the aircraft shows that it was owned by 11 companies in the past 27 years. The Beechcraft Kingair aircraft is currently registered to Banco Brandesco – Brazil’s third largest bank. However, an official from the Bank has said that they do not own any planes but it is registered to them since the owner may have acquired a loan to purchase it.

A mining company named Riwa SA Incorporated Investments and Participants operates the aircraft. No trace of narcotics was found on the plane, but identification cards of Venezuelan and Brazilian origin were discovered on board.

During the search of the aircraft, several pieces of communication equipment, including cellular phones, flashlights, a quantity of dried ration and medical supplies were discovered. (Lakhram Bhagirat)

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