NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young disclosed yesterday that he has asked for an investigation into whether any nationals abroad have been “tricked” into paying a private aircraft charter company, while under the impression that the company would be able to help them enter Trinidad and Tobago.
Young, who has stressed that the Minister of National Security remains the sole authority to grant exemptions to enter the country while the borders remain closed against Covid-19, also denied persistent rumours that some people are quietly entering T&T on such flights.
“I can say without fear of contradiction that this is completely false and misleading,” Young stated.
He said there has been “no known case” of any person returning to this country without individual approval from the Minister of National Security and “persons should not be fooled, especially those outside Trinidad and Tobago, by persons holding themselves out as having a charter company”.
A video advertorial making the rounds on social media - especially among T&T nationals stranded abroad — shows a local businesswoman touting private jet services to T&T, Antigua, Jamaica and Guyana, among other regional destinations.
The advertiser stated that PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing for Covid-19 is conducted before every flight, after which customers enjoy “first class” services.
The advertiser further advises that Covid-19 should not stop persons from getting medical attention or seeing their loved ones.
The video has caused a stir among groups of nationals abroad currently seeking exemptions and the opportunity to return home, as it has fuelled rumours that some people were able to expedite the process and have returned on at least one such flight into T&T.
Young dismissed this, stating that “every person allowed to enter Trinidad and Tobago is being granted approval”.
He added: “I am going to be asking the authorities to investigate whether persons were fooled or tricked into paying their money on the basis that, by the payment of that money they would get approval to enter Trinidad and Tobago,” Young stated at yesterday’s virtual news conference to update on Covid-19.
The Minister had referred to the charter company earlier in his address but did not name the entity, saying he had launched an investigation into whether persons had entered T&T without State approval.
He noted allegations being made to that effect and said “there is no charter company in the world that has the authority to bring people in with the individuals getting approval”.
He noted, again, that no commercial flights are in operation in T&T and individuals or groups who have applied for and received exemptions, who then seek chartered flights, will be allowed into the country according to the balancing of healthcare resources.
The Government also continues to work with Caribbean Airlines, he said.
He said the message remains that the borders are currently closed and “you cannot enter T&T without approval”, but Government is “not preventing” or looking to stymie any business person or entrepreneur.