Buenos Aires, Argentina (AFP) – Authorities in Argentina and Paraguay have been making an attempt to make clear the thriller that has surrounded a cargo aircraft with Iranian and Venezuelan crew exterior Buenos Aires for greater than two weeks.
Prosecutors within the two South American international locations have launched investigations to search out out whether or not the crew members – 14 Venezuelans and 5 Iranians – had any hyperlinks to worldwide terrorism or different criminality.
Cecilia Encardona, the prosecutor main the case in Argentina, is focusing her investigations on the Iranian pilot, Gholamreza Ghasemi, and his potential ties to worldwide terrorism.
The FBI mentioned in a report back to Argentine federal choose Federico Villina, who’s accountable for the case, that Ghasemi is the CEO of Qeshm Fars Air, which the US Treasury says offers materials assist to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Drive and Iran Air. Mahan Air, in keeping with a doc launched by Encardona’s workplace this week.
Within the doc, Encardona mentioned that in the course of the preliminary investigation of the aircraft, “several implications emerged that make it necessary to move the investigation forward” with Kasumi, the remainder of the cabin crew and its cargo.
Encardirona went on to say that the “irregular conditions” surrounding the aircraft created the necessity to examine “whether the real purpose of the plane’s arrival in our country was to exclusively transport auto parts” or whether or not it was “preparing to provide goods or funds that could be used for or finance terrorist activity.” or manage it.
The plane is operated by Venezuela’s state-owned Amtrasur Line, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is topic to US sanctions.
Earlier than it was bought to Emtrasur a yr in the past, the aircraft was owned by Iran’s Mahan Air, which the US authorities has sanctioned for aiding the Quds Drive and terrorist actions.
Encardona mentioned an investigation now should decide whether or not Mahan Air continues to affiliate with the Boeing 747-300.
Mahan Air has publicly denied any reference to the aircraft and Venezuela has demanded the Argentine authorities launch it.
The aircraft was carrying a cargo of plenty of Argentine auto elements corporations that have been loaded in Mexico earlier than stopping in Caracas and arriving in Argentina on June 6.
The aircraft has been parked within the hangar in Ezeiza exterior Buenos Aires since June 8, when Argentine authorities confiscated the passports of the crew members.
Prosecutor Sandra Quines mentioned the crew was additionally underneath investigation in Paraguay, the place the aircraft landed final month. The investigation was opened after Rene Fernandez, the previous prosecutor who heads Paraguay’s Nationwide Anti-Corruption Secretariat, known as for an investigation into the aircraft that had spent three days in Ciudad del Este, close to the border with Argentina.
Fernandez informed a neighborhood tv community that there have been suspicions that the aircraft’s cargo was a “facade” that hid the true cause for its time in Paraguay.
Esteban Aquino, the top of Paraguay’s intelligence company, informed an Argentine radio station on Monday that they have been significantly involved after they discovered that the aircraft had turned off its transponder in a number of elements of its flights.
The unusually massive cabin crew aroused suspicion in Paraguay, however solely after the aircraft left the nation to move cigarettes to Aruba did officers know that it “belonged to an Iranian company that has been suspended due to sanctions by the US Treasury,” Paraguay’s Inside Minister Federico Gonzalez mentioned earlier. from this month.
The Israeli embassy in Uruguay expressed “concern” Wednesday concerning the aircraft, which “was used until recently by Iran’s Mahan Air.”
The embassy mentioned in a press assertion that some Iranian crew members have been “directly involved in smuggling weapons to Syria and the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.”