What is known about the Venezuelan and Iranian plane and crew stranded in Argentina

A Boeing 747 cargo plane and its crew of 19 people of Venezuelan and Iranian nationality are being held in Argentina, the subject of a judicial investigation. The aircraft landed on June 6 at Cordoba airport, due to fog in Buenos Aires that limited visibility.

On June 8, he tried to travel to Uruguay, where he was denied entry. “The plane was over the Rio de la Plata” when it was ordered to return, said Uruguayan Defense Minister Javier García. Since then, the plane has been at Ezeiza International Airport, which serves the Argentine capital.

Where is the plane from? The aircraft belongs to the company Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s Conviasa, the target of sanctions imposed by the US Department of the Treasury. It was purchased a year ago from the Iranian airline Mahan Air, according to a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

What was the itinerary? The plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico with a batch of auto parts. In May, he traveled to Ciudad del Este (in Paraguay, on the triple border with Argentina and Brazil), from where he left with a shipment of cigarettes to the Caribbean island of Aruba.

Paraguayan Interior Minister Federico González said on Tuesday that two officials who authorized the landing had been fired. Shortly after the plane left Paraguay, González said he received information that the aircraft was subject to US sanctions and that seven of the crew belonged to Quds, an elite group of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, classified as a terrorist organization by Washington. .

“The other intelligence services in the region were alerted and, as a result, Argentina and other countries took action,” explained González. Quds is not part of the list of terrorist organizations drawn up by the Argentine government, although the name of one of its members appears individually.

How did the judicial investigation begin?

The Argentine Migration Directorate withheld the passports of the Boeing 747 crew after Uruguay denied entry into its territory. On June 11, a lawyer filed a habeas corpus for the documents to be returned. On June 12, the federal judge of Lomas de Zamora, Federico Villena, rejected the appeal and opened a judicial investigation.

On June 13, the judge asked for a further 72-hour extension of the seizure of the passports of the five Iranian crew members. This Tuesday, a ban on leaving the country for 14 Venezuelan crew members was presented. The group is staying at a hotel near Ezeiza airport.

The case, of which the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations (DAIA) is part of the process, is under brief secrecy. Argentina considers the presence of Iranian travelers to be sensitive, given the red alerts of capture issued by Interpol that apply to the former rulers of that country, accused of the attack against the center of the Argentine Jewish community in 1994, which left 85 dead and about 300 injured.

What was suspicious? For the Paraguayan Interior Minister, the fact that the plane was traveling with a crew of 18 people drew attention. According to specialized websites, a Boeing 747 cargo plane needs a crew of three to four people.

The Argentine Minister of Security, Aníbal Fernández, pointed out that, although none of the crew who arrived in Argentina – and they are not necessarily the same ones who went to Paraguay – are wanted by Interpol, among them there is a name, that of Gholamreza Ghasemi, who drew attention.

“He is a relative of Iran’s interior minister and his name coincides with that of a member of the Revolutionary Guard and administrator of a company linked to Quds,” Fernández revealed. “If you ask me if it’s him, I don’t know. The name matches. The rest is an analysis that we will do together with Immigration and, of course, the Airport Security Police will do the same”, he added.

How did other countries react? Iran said on Monday the accusations were part of a propaganda campaign, “with psychological operations and a war of words to provoke a feeling of insecurity” in that country.

Venezuela, whose President Nicolás Maduro visited Tehran over the weekend, has not issued a statement on the case.

In Mexico, a government official in Querétaro confirmed to AFP that the plane took off from its airport on June 5 and assured that international protocols were complied with. The route that the plane would take and that was communicated to the Mexican authorities was Caracas-Querétaro-Caracas-Buenos Aires-Caracas.

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