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Argentina, Paraguay probe grounded 747 for terrorism ties

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Authorities in Argentina and Paraguay are attempting to shine mild on the jumbo-jet sized thriller surrounding a cargo aircraft with Iranian and Venezuelan crew that has been grounded outdoors Buenos Aires 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 mentioned in a report back to Argentine federal choose Federico Villena, who’s in command of the case, that Ghasemi is CEO of Qeshm Fars Air, which the U.S. Treasury Division says offers materials help 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.

In the course of the preliminary investigation into the aircraft, “quite a few traces have emerged that make it vital to maneuver ahead with the investigation” of Ghasemi, the remainder of the aircraft’s crew and its cargo, Incardona mentioned within the doc.

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

The aircraft is operated by Venezuela’s state-owned Emtrasur line, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is underneath U.S. sanctions.

Earlier than it was offered to Emtrasur a yr in the past, the aircraft was owned by Mahan Air of Iran, which the U.S. authorities has sanctioned for allegedly aiding the Quds Drive and terrorist actions.

Incardona mentioned 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 aircraft was carrying cargo for a number of Argentine auto elements firms that it loaded in Mexico earlier than stopping in Caracas and arriving in Argentina on June 6.

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

There are suspicions the aircraft’s cargo was “a facade” that hid the actual motive for its time in Paraguay, Fernández instructed a neighborhood tv community.

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

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

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

In a information launch, the embassy mentioned among the Iranian crew members “have been concerned immediately within the trafficking of weapons to Syria and the terrorist group Hezbollah of Lebanon.”



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