Charter helicopters carry jetfoil cash
By ANDY GILBERT
SECURITY firms charter regular helicopter flights to transport money between Macau and Hong Kong following the ban on cash shipments by ferries in the wake of June's jetfoil hijack.
Tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun banned security firms from carrying cash on his jetfoils after the robbery.
But he was quick to seize the opportunity to recover the lost fees by promoting his helicopter company as the alternative.
Today, his East Asia Airlines regularly charters its Bell 222 helicopters to security companies wishing to move cash between Macau and Hong Kong.
'We are open to business with anyone who has the money,' said company president Captain Pran Parashar.
'But it has to be on a special charter. We will not allow any valuables or money to be carried with other passengers on board.' Captain Parashar said at least two security companies regularly chartered the service, costing about $10,000, and two others had made inquiries.
'There is not really any alternative now the ferries are not transporting cash,' he said.
But it is also understood couriers are carrying cash for the banks overland in relatively small amounts.
After the hijack, the Marine Department set up a committee to review security.
A spokesman for Far East Hydrofoils said the firm had complied with all the recommendations of the committee, which essentially means no valuables are carried on board and there is tighter security on the bridge. It was decided little could be done about security at the ferry terminals without hampering the 13 million passengers who pass through them each year.
Officials claim to have increased spot checks, but they admit it is still relatively easy to smuggle guns through. In the summer, banks in Macau slapped a surcharge of about $20 for deposits of $10,000 or more to offset the cost of transferring cash by helicopter.