Private aircraft operators abetting money laundering, drug trafficking — Keyamo

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has expressed his displeasure on the activities of private illegal aircraft operators who are engaged in hard drug transportation as well as money laundering in the country.

He added that this illegal charter operation was already thriving within the aviation sector.

Keyamo disclosed this at a management meeting in Abuja on Thursday, where he expressed readiness to tackle the perpetrators headlong without any form of shyness.

Recall that the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Customs Service, is clamping down on operators of improperly imported private jets into the country.

80 operators of private jets are expected to appear at the headquarters of Nigeria Customs in Abuja with their aircraft import documents.

The minister, who recalled that it was part of his promise to ensure safety, support for local operators and revenue generation on his assumption of office, insisted that the activities of the illegal operators have not only led to significant financial losses to the Federal Government but have also raised security and safety concerns in the industry.

He said, “It has come to my attention, through a series of disturbing reports, that the practice of illegal charter operations is thriving within the aviation industry, thereby undermining the efforts of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and other regulatory bodies.

“These illicit activities have not only resulted in significant financial losses to the Federal Government but have also raised security and safety concerns as the operations of private aircraft owners have remained largely unchecked and unregulated. This has also resulted in using these private aircraft for other illegal activities.”

He also stated that the owners of the illegal aircraft have been operating in collusion with some legitimate aircraft operators, who have been allowing the illegal operators to use their licences and certificates to carry out their illegal activities.

While enumerating his displeasure over the development, the Minister mentioned that the office of the National Security Adviser has also noticed the trend of increasing money laundering, drug trafficking and other illegal activities through the use of private aircraft in the country

“These illicit activities have not only resulted in significant financial losses to the Federal Government but have also raised security and safety concerns as the operations of private aircraft owners have remained largely unchecked and unregulated. This has also resulted in using these private aircraft for other illegal activities.

“Last week, the National Security Adviser wrote to us, alerting us of the spike in money laundering, drug trafficking and other illegal activities through the use of private aircraft in the country.

“It appears that Private Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) operators have become increasingly emboldened, continuing their illegal operations with the assistance of Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders who collect tolls and list these illegal charters under their AOCs,” Keyamo added.

To start the fight against these illegal operators, the Minister announced the immediate composition of a ministerial Task Force on Illegal Private Charter Operations and Related Matters.

The task force was saddled with the responsibilities of “Taking inventory of all PNCF holders and AOC holders; To determine why the practice of illegal charters by PNCF holders persists in the country despite regulatory controls; To call in all professional licences of pilots and crew in the country and determine their authenticity and validity; To recommend to the Minister any additional measures to be taken by regulatory agencies to stem this ugly tide.”

The other responsibilities include, “To recommend appropriate sanctions to be imposed by the regulatory agencies on defaulters and to recommend additional measures to further monitor the operations and activities of private aircraft in Nigeria.”

The Minister also mentioned that the members of the Task Force have been carefully selected from within the aviation industry “and are people of high repute and integrity. I wish them well.”

NewsDirect
NewsDirect
Articles: 41134