Argentina Detains Venezuelan Cargo Jet with Iranian CrewmembersBy Antonio Gozain | Tue, 06/14/2022 - 11:30
A Venezuelan-owned Boeing 747 cargo plane has been stuck since June 6 at Buenos Aires’ main airport due to suspicions about its crew and US sanctions against Iran, reported AP. The jet landed in Queretaro on June 4.
The plane carries automotive parts and an “unusually large” crew of 17, including at least five Iranians. Argentina’s Minister of Security Aníbal Fernández said to AP that the government and legal authorities are studying the situation: “[Foreign intelligence agencies] advised that part of the crew belonged to companies related to the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran,” which was listed as a terrorist organization by the US government since 2007.
The plane’s operators had reported a smaller number of crewmembers than were actually aboard and it was carrying parts for an unspecified automotive assembly plant, added Fernández. The aircraft had been owned by Mahan Air of Iran, a line that the US government has sanctioned for allegedly aiding the Quds Force, until last year, when it was sold to Venezuela’s state-owned Emtrasur.
“The Iranians arrived in Argentina on June 6 from Mexico and landed in Cordoba. Later, they went to Buenos Aires. On June 8 they tried to fly to Uruguay but landing was denied and the plane returned to Ezeiza (Buenos Aires),” reported Argentinian newspaper Clarín. Earlier, the Boeing 747 traveled from Caracas to Tehran on May 21. On May 24, “it flew over northern Iran and over the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, before disappearing from radar at 37,000 feet in Azerbaijan.”
On May 25, the cargo jet landed in Moscow and later returned to Iran and flew from Tehran to Belgrade. The plane made a short stop there and continued towards the Atlantic, “disappearing from the radar when it passed through Portugal,” reported Clarín. On May 26, it landed in Caracas and on June 4, the plane “flew to Mexico, landing in Queretaro.” On June 6, it flew to Buenos Aires but made an emergency landing in Cordoba for weather reasons and hours later, it flew to Buenos Aires, reported the newspaper.
The Boeing 747 crewmembers have been lodged at a hotel. While Venezuelans are free to leave if they want, the Iranians can move about only within Buenos Aires, said Fernández.
Political opponents of Argentinian President Alberto Fernández have denounced government officials “that allowed the plane to enter and fly in Argentina.” Deputies Gerardo Milman and Federico Villenas demanded that all agency officials involved be investigated and the crewmembers’ fingerprint data be obtained.