A New Mexico-based company that Wednesday took over armed-guard service at Honolulu International Airport has been denied access to highly secured areas at the airport.
Nat Aycox, port director for United States Customs, confirmed that Akal Security Inc. personnel have neither applied for nor been cleared to guard highly secured areas of the airport under U.S. Customs jurisdiction.
The application and clearance process for new personnel depends on the number of clearances required and can take several days, he said Sept. 1.
The head licensee of Akal in Hawaii, Art McCollough, did not return calls to PBN.
The lack of airport security may leave some areas of the airport under U.S. Customs control unnecessarily in jeopardy, although those areas are limited, Aycox says.
"Really, the seriousness of the situation depends on if there is a problem," he says. "If there is an incident, the Akal security can't just come in and help us fix it without clearing personnel first."
Kazu Hayashida, state Director of Transportation, says he was not aware of the clearance problem at the airport. His only comment was that the department would research the problem and contact PBN. No calls were returned by PBN's deadline.
Federal Aviation Administration officials who oversee the western region of the United States also were not aware of the situation.
Akal took over security at the Honolulu International Airport at midnight Tuesday following its winning a $20.4 million bid, around $300,000 lower than that of the state airport's former security firm, Wackenhut.
Several local and national companies competed for the three-year contract, considered the largest and one of the most coveted in the state. It also is the only state contract where guards are allowed to bear firearms.
In addition to clearance problems from Akal's delays in the application process, the guard firm also may be facing other problems.
Hayashida, the state's transportation director, said a federal investigator is looking into reports of illegal activity by Akal.
Personnel associated with the company and its affiliated companies have been accused of running illegal drugs and illegal weapons into the United States and of money laundering.
If the reports are substantiated, the contract could be pulled and given to the next lowest bidder, Hayashida says.
Earl Anzai, attorney general for the state of Hawaii, says his office had prior knowledge of neither the company's background nor failure to file for the access permit.