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Venezuelan Boeing 747 stranded in Argentina over links to Iran’s IRGC

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A Boeing 747 operating for the cargo division of Venezuelan national carrier Conviasa is stranded in Argentina for its links to the Iranian IRGC’s Quds Force.

Aníbal Fernandez, Argentinian the security minister tweeted on Saturday that “The government immobilized in Ezeiza [Airport in Buenos Aires] a Venezuelan plane sanctioned by the United States and withheld the passports of five Iranian crew members. The tweet came after a local news website leaked information about the plane.

The plane previously operated for Iranian company Mahan Airlines, sanctioned by the United States for its ties to Tehran’s extraterritorial intelligence and covert operations force, the Quds (Quds) Force since 2008. The specific plane that belonged to French airlines since entering service in 1986, was sold to Mahan Airlines in 2007 and was later reportedly sanctioned by the United States.

At the beginning of 2022, Conviasa in Venezuela decided to create a cargo division called Emtrasur Cargo and its first aircraft was the Boeing 747-300M purchased or leased from Mahan Airlines and named “Louisa Caceres Arismendi”. What is more interesting is that his next two planes were also supposed to be Mahan Airlines planes.

Thanks to close military and economic cooperation between Caracas and Tehran, the new freight company could become a joint venture.

The Boeing 747 flew from Mexico to Argentina on June 6, carrying auto parts, but according to Argentinian media, someone knew something and decided to carefully inspect the plane, Aviacioline reported on June 11.

Although it turned out that there was no illegal cargo on board and that the shipment of auto parts had been delivered to its destination in Argentina, authorities became more suspicious that there were five Iranians and at least a dozen Venezuelans on board, the Iranians not appearing in the passenger manifest. As a result, the Iranians’ passports were seized and all passengers are believed to be in a hotel.

According to the same local sources, Argentina suspects the Iranians of belonging to the Al-Quds Force but are allowed to leave the country on regular flights.

But the fate of the plane is another story. No fuel company is willing to provide service to the plane for fear of third-party US sanctions. He attempted to leave Argentina for Uruguay in order to obtain fuel, but had to turn back when permission was refused, according to the Spanish language news site Infobae.

News of the plane emerged after an Argentine opposition MP, Gerardo Milman, submitted a request for information, citing “the enigmatic behavior of the flight, the puzzling ownership of the aircraft and the composition of the aircraft. ‘crew”. The point that Milman made is that the Boeing 747 first flew to Cordoba from Mexico, apparently because of the fog in Buenos Aires and a few hours later flew to its final destination, with its transponder turned off. .

It is not clear if the fog was the real reason the plane diverted to Cordoba, and if its crew left the plane or not.

Also unclear is who provided information to Argentina to carefully inspect the plane and its passengers. Apparently the Venezuelan cargo operation and this particular aircraft had been under observation for some time.