As many readers will undoubtedly already be aware, on 6 July 2022 a Light Aircraft Association (LAA) employee was tricked into transferring a total of £64,523.10 from one of the LAA’s bank accounts. Although it is believed some other aviation organisations were made aware by the LAA of the scam, this information was not released to the LAA’s membership until early October, when a letter dated 16 September from the LAA Chairman Eryl Crump was mailed out with the October issue of the LAA journal, Light Aviation. The magazine also contained a beneficial shareholder’s proxy form for the association’s AGM, which was scheduled for later the same month.
Prior to the AGM taking place at Turweston, numerous members expressed their dissatisfaction about this affair to Pilot, many questioning how such an apparently unsophisticated scam resulted in the loss of such a large sum of money (the scammer had managed to convince the employee to transfer the funds from the LAA’s bank to two, separate, competitor banks, over the course of a phone call lasting three hours). We have also received emails questioning the overall competence of the LAA’s management and querying the time frame. The scam was perpetrated on 6 July, yet members were only notified three months later, and only weeks before the AGM.
The meeting itself – which was attended via Zoom by several Pilot staff who are LAA members – was at times fractious and at others barely comprehensible, owing to the poor audio quality. There were also issues for those trying to vote electronically via Zoom, and this led to the meeting being adjourned temporarily.
During the meeting the CEO presented a ten-point plan of proposed and completed actions, and emphasised that any payment of more than £5,000 now requires two signatories (this has been standard procedure for most businesses for many years now). LAA office staff have now undertaken training regarding how to deal with fraud, but the final module was not due to be completed until November. The directors were only due to have undergone their own fraud-awareness training by 31 October.
Although the board were understandably contrite and offered profuse apologies, many members – perhaps unsurprisingly – have contacted the Pilot office to indicate their displeasure, with several pointing out that a more robust organisation, and particularly one involved in the oversight of aircraft, would perhaps have taken more care. It was also claimed that the Governance Strategy and Process Committee, the Finance Committee and the Risk and Audit Committee hadn’t met for several years. These same readers questioned the CEOs activity – or lack thereof, in chairing these vital meetings.
PHOTO: EUGENIO FACCI