The United States started a new legal “battle” against Nicolás Maduro’s regime to seize the Venezuelan plane with an Iranian crew that was held in Argentina for links to international terrorism.
A statement from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asked the Argentine courts to seize the plane for violating export control laws.
U.S. Justice Department Seeks Seizure of Boeing 747 Cargo Plane Grounded in Argentina
The Boeing 747 Aircraft Was Recently Transferred from a Designated Iranian Airline to South America in Violation of U.S. Export Control Lawshttps://t.co/XGw7OTjfuX
— National Security Division, U.S. Dept of Justice (@DOJNatSec) August 2, 2022
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According to the statement, on July 19, a court order was issued from that district alleging that the aircraft may be seized for the unauthorized transfer of the plane from Mahan Air—an airline linked to the Revolutionary Guard and Quds Forces, considered terrorist organizations— to Emtrasur, the cargo airline of Conviasa, a Venezuelan state-owned company.
As stated in the Department of Justice’s press release, since 2008 the Department of Commerce renews every year a ban on Mahan Air to engage in any type of transaction related to commodities exported from the United States. Therefore, they allege in the order that in October 2021 the airline violated this prohibition when it passed control of the aircraft to Emtrasur.
Another argument for the seizure is what happened in Argentina when the plane was held with Iranian crew related to terrorism.
In 2011, the United States sanctioned Mahan Air for providing material support to the Quds Forces; while in 2020 OFAC sanctioned Conviasa.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws”, said Assistant Attorney Matthew G. Olsen of the National Security. U.S. Department of Justice. Division.
“Working with our partners across the globe, we will give no quarter to governments and state-sponsored entities looking to evade our sanctions and export control regimes in service of their malign activities”, he added.
Meanwhile in Argentina, Federal Judge Federico Villena decided to keep in force the ban on the departure of 7 of the 19 crew members of the Emtrasur plane. They are four Iranians, including the pilot and co-pilot, and three Venezuelans.
Nicolás Maduro wants Argentina to give him back his plane
Venezuela’s tyrant, Nicolás Maduro, asked Argentina this Wednesday, August 3, to hand over the aircraft to him: “They are trying to steal our aircraft by order of a Florida court. They are trying to steal our airplane like they stole our gold in London, like they stole our Citgo,” said Maduro.
According to the Venezuelan regime, the Iranian crew was traveling in the plane as part of a “training” to Venezuelan personnel; then it assured that the plane was carrying “humanitarian aid to Caribbean countries” and that “it was dedicated to take humanitarian aid to Africa”; however, the irregularities surrounding the aircraft allow speculating that it could be linked to illicit activities; especially because the Iranian personnel was of high rank and the previous routes have been qualified as suspicious.
The plane arrived in Argentina on June 6 from Mexico after a stopover in Venezuela. Two days later it left to refuel in Uruguay, but had to return to Ezeiza International Airport because the neighboring country did not authorize its landing.
Upon its return to Buenos Aires, the authorities immobilized the aircraft and ordered the detention of its 19 crew members, 5 Iranians and 14 Venezuelans.
More irregularities that compromise the truth about the Venezuelan aircraft
One of the detained crew members is Gholamreza Ghasemi, who has the same name as a member of the Quds Forces, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps regarded by the United States as instructors of Hezbollah terrorists.
In addition, the Iranian pilot’s phone contained a photo of Mohsen Rezaee, a terrorist with an international arrest warrant for the AMIA bombing, as well as images of warfare, weapons, and photographs of the logo of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran.
Joseph Humire, an intelligence and global security specialist, revealed that what happened “is very similar to the modus operandi applied by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of combining commercial with military”.
Humire has explained to El American that for more than 35 years, Iran has built up the potential for a military presence in the region with businesses that on the surface appear lawful.
Humire, who has been studying Iranian influence in the region for more than a decade, revealed that although the immigration record in Argentina mentions only 5 Iranian nationals, there were actually 6, one of whom is unaccounted for.
The aircraft that is detained at Ezeiza transported a cargo of cigarettes from Paraguay to Aruba. That flight took place on May 13, from Ciudad del Este to the island.
The aircraft departed from Venezuela and landed at Guarani airport and according to reports, the crew also consisted of 11 Venezuelans and 7 Iranians.
Out of the 7 Iranians, only two match the crew members of the flight to Ezeiza and one of them is a shareholder and member of the board of directors of the Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air, sanctioned by the United States.
But that flight from Paraguay to Aruba is not the only one causing suspicion, according to Humire, the same supposedly “cargo” plane routinely travels to Russia, Serbia and Belarus.
“So, when it says car parts, could be other parts used for joint military programs between Iran and Venezuela”, both sanctioned by the United States.
In his conclusions, Humire believes that the key to this trip must be in Cordoba and suggested Argentine authorities to analyze the material because possibly the alleged “car parts” could in fact be sanctioned aviation parts.