Argentina, Paraguay probe grounded 747 for terrorism ties

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Authorities in Argentina and Paraguay try to shine gentle on the jumbo-sized thriller surrounding a cargo airplane with Iranian and Venezuelan crew that has been grounded outdoors Buenos Aires for greater than two weeks.

Prosecutors within the two South American nations have launched investigations to determine whether or not the crew members — 14 Venezuelans and 5 Iranians — have any ties to worldwide terrorism or different illicit exercise.

Cecilia Incardona, the prosecutor main the case in Argentina, is focusing her inquiries on the Iranian pilot, Gholamreza Ghasemi, and his doable ties to worldwide terrorism.

The FBI stated in a report back to Argentine federal decide Federico Villena, who’s answerable for the case, that Ghasemi is CEO of Qeshm Fars Air, which the US Treasury Division says supplies materials assist to the Quds Drive of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Iranian airline Mahan Air, in line with a doc issued by Incardona’s workplace this week.

Through the preliminary investigation into the airplane, “quite a few traces have emerged that make it vital to maneuver ahead with the investigation” of Ghasemi, the remainder of the airplane’s crew and its cost, Incardona stated within the doc.

Incardona went on to say the “irregular circumstances” surrounding the airplane created the necessity to examine “if the true goal of the airplane’s arrival in our nation was solely to move auto components” or whether or not it was actually “preparation to supply items or cash that may very well be used for terrorist exercise, its financing or group.”

The airplane is operated by Venezuela’s state-owned Emtrasur line, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is beneath US sanctions.

Earlier than it was offered to Emtrasur a 12 months in the past, the airplane was owned by Mahan Air of Iran, which the US authorities has sanctioned for allegedly aiding the Quds Drive and terrorist actions.

Incardona stated the investigation now has to find out whether or not Mahan Air continues to have a hyperlink to the Boeing 747-300.

Mahan Air has publicly denied any ties to the plane and Venezuela has demanded that Argentine authorities launch it.

The airplane was carrying cargo for a number of Argentine auto components corporations that it loaded in Mexico earlier than stopping in Caracas and arriving in Argentina on June 6.

The airplane has been grounded in a hangar in Ezeiza simply outdoors Buenos Aires since June 8, when Argentine authorities seized the passports of the crew members.

The crew can also be beneath investigation in Paraguay, the place the airplane landed final month, stated normal prosecutor Sandra Quiñónez. The investigation was opened after René Fernández, a former prosecutor who leads Paraguay’s Nationwide Anticorruption Secretariat, referred to as for a probe into the airplane, which spent three days in Ciudad del Este, close to the border with Argentina.

There have been suspicions the airplane’s cargo “a facade” that hid the true cause for its time in Paraguay, Fernández informed a neighborhood tv community.

Esteban Aquino, head of Paraguay’s intelligence company, informed an Argentine radio station Monday that they had been notably involved once they discovered the airplane turned off its transponder in a number of segments of its flights.

The airplane’s unusually massive crew additionally raised suspicions in Paraguay but it surely was solely after the airplane left the nation to move cigarettes to Aruba that officers discovered it “belonged to an Iranian firm that’s suspended with sanctions by the US Treasury Division,” Paraguay’s Inside Minister Federico González stated earlier this month.

The Israeli Embassy in Uruguay expressed its “concern” Wednesday concerning the airplane that “till lately was utilized by the Iranian firm Mahan Air.”

In a information launch, the embassy stated a few of the Iranian crew members “had been instantly concerned within the trafficking of weapons to Syria and the terrorist group Hezbollah of Lebanon.”

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