KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Regional airline LIAT said Friday that it fired on Dec. 2 Vincentian pilot Keith Allen, 34, who on Thursday paid a Barbados court a BD$250,000 (approx. EC$337,000) fine for drug trafficking.
“The management of LIAT (1974) Ltd wishes to confirm the termination of the Company’s employment relationship with First Officer Keith Allen with effect from December 02, 2011,” LIAT said in a statement without further elaboration.
The termination came the same day Allen told a Barbados court that he was guilty of trying to smuggle 65 pounds of marijuana — worth BD$130,000 — in eight packets through Grantley Adams International Airport on Nov. 23.
The appearance of two Methodist preachers as character witnesses for the pilot might have contributed to his escaping a lengthy prison sentence in the case that saw several adjournments after the guilty plea.
Allen was visibly slimmer in a Nation newspaper photographer published on Thursday compared to a photo by the same publication when he first appeared in court in November.
The pilot arrived in Barbados on a LIAT flight from St Vincent around 7:40 p.m. on Nov. 23. He was arrested by officers from the Drug Squad who found two packages of marijuana in his pilot’s bag and another six packages in a pulley he was carrying. He was wearing his pilot’s uniform but was not on duty at the time.
LIAT, in a statement shortly after Allen’s arrest, announced “its full support for, and cooperation with, law enforcement authorities in relation to any incidents where its cooperation is required” and said that it would conduct its own investigation into the matter.
“The management of LIAT is confident that the overwhelming majority of the Company’s employees continue to respect the laws of their country. It is our hope that the actions of one employee will not reflect negatively on the hundreds of ethical LIAT employees who work hard to serve the public daily,” the statement further said.
Meanwhile, Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a Barbados newspaper last year that he was saddened by the development.
Gonsalves, who is the lead CARICOM prime ministerial spokesperson on aviation, said he was equally disappointed that Allen was an employee of LIAT, of which his government is a major shareholder.
“I am personally saddened. I know the family [of the pilot] involved. These are people of good standing, God-fearing people, so this has personally affected me,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security and Legal affairs.
Gonsalves also said that his government would conduct an investigation to determine how the pilot was able to leave this country with the drug.