African airline made more than 20 flights to Brazil, but they disappeared from the register

Photo by Aktug Ates, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia


At the end of the year 2018, an aircraft from Equatorial Guinea was received by the Federal Police at Viracopos airport, in Campinas. What appeared to be just a routine flight soon turned out to be an imbroglio involving a suitcase of cash and watches, which totaled more than $15 million in goods.

The reason for the flight and why such items are on board are a mystery. Likewise, few are aware that more than two dozen Equatorial Guinea government flights had already landed in Brazil between 2012 and 2018 and that there is little history about them, including the ANAC bases no longer showing these operations.

In this publication, AEROIN explores the facts surrounding the controversial operation of the Guinean-Ecuadorian state airline, Ceiba Intercontinental, to Brazil.


understand the apprehension

The fact that “changed the way” Ceiba came to be seen by those who follow aviation was the apprehension that took place on the afternoon of September 14, 2018, less than a month before the first round of the presidential elections and other executive positions and legislatures of that year.

That day, a joint operation between Viracopos airport and the Federal Police found bags with money and watches along with the entourage of Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodoro Obiang Mang, who is also the son of the country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. . Another ten people were on board the huge plane, which did not come to Brazil on an official mission, since the flight was not formally requested from the Itamaraty, but was made as a traditional private charter.

As it was a commercial flight, all luggage is checked and it was in this process that approximately US$ 1.5 million and the equivalent of US$ 13 thousand in reais, along with luxury watches estimated at around US$ 15 million , They were found. Remembering that, in official missions, diplomatic baggage with documents from the country of origin is not inspected.

After that, the goods were seized and the entourage was released. Interestingly, the vice president, who had claimed he came to Brazil for health care, returned along with the group. An investigation was launched under diplomatic secrecy and the matter was never discussed again.


Friendships

From this whole scene, the questions that remained were: What was this plane doing in Brazil? Why did he have such valuable items on board? And what was the real intention of the trip? Why did you arrive in Brazil on the eve of the 2018 election? And why were there more than 20 trips before that? All these answers are still open.

At the time, there was a rumor that it was related to a loan from the BNDES, followed by a debt forgiveness during the PT governments, and that this would be a “return” of the money. However, this was investigated by Agência Lupa and denied by BNDES itself, as noted below:

“The government of Equatorial Guinea is not and was not a BNDES client. The country is not and was not a destination for bank financing for the export of Brazilian engineering goods and services. There are no works in the African nation carried out by Brazilian companies with BNDES financing”, says the note, published on September 17. “The Bank, therefore, did not forgive any debt of Equatorial Guinea, since there are no operations between BNDES and the government of the country”.

But that doesn’t answer the questions. At the time, it was reported in all the press about a strange relationship between Brazilian contractors and the Guinean-Ecuadorian government, in an exchange of favors that involved works in Guinea and “sponsorships” in reciprocity. The case was brought to light by the Lava Jato operation. and the subject of many articles from that time, which can still be read today.


Still, this does not conclude the analysis.. In addition, there was not just one trip, but several, between Equatorial Guinea and Brazil, some of them quite unusual and the data disappeared from the ANAC database years ago. Understand further below.

Flights disappeared from ANAC before 2018

The aircraft of the entourage intercepted in Viracopos in September 2018 was the Boeing 777-200LR of P4-SKN brands (msn 60116, formerly 3C-MAB). The plane belonged to the state-owned company, Ceiba Intercontinental, but since 2017 it has been registered in the name of the government of Equatorial Guinea. This particular plane came to Brazil only on this occasion.

However, before him, flights to Brazil were made by another Boeing 777-200LR, registration CS-TQX (msn 40668), leased from the Portuguese airline White Airways, but operating on behalf of the Government of Equatorial Guinea through Ceiba (see certificate below, obtained from a source in Portugal).

The CS-TQX was a regular visitor to Guarulhos Airport. The aircraft was manufactured in 2011 and in the following year it began to appear in São Paulo. The visits were so frequent that it went from being a rare aircraft to being just another Boeing at the airport.

The motivation for the visits was always mysterious: despite being commercial flights, it was not a regular route, there was no ticket sales, the plane often parked at the Air Base, few passengers came on board. It was said that the flights were carrying employees of contractors working in Equatorial Guinea, but this could never be confirmed.


In fact, the CS-TQX flights were not diplomatic, as they appeared on HOTRAN (ANAC’s Air Transport Schedule, and even because of that it facilitated the large number of photos by aviation enthusiasts. Therefore, everyone knew when the aircraft would arrive .

A very curious fact is that, when consulting the historical VRA of Hotran (Siros), which would show flights from the year 2000 to 2022, for some unknown reason these flights disappeared. This had already been identified by AEROIN on two previous occasions, the last being in 2018. In addition, flights are not included in passenger statistics, whose reporting is mandatory for all companies operating commercial flights in Brazil, whether scheduled or chartered. .

Remembering that access to the ANAC website is public as determined by law. The query by both the Ceiba code and the Portuguese code White, the real owner of the plane, or the route, does not return anything. Below, a screenshot shows a search made today for flights between Malabo (FGBT) and Guarulhos (SBGR), which was the route the aircraft was taking. Note that the query does not return anything, and still returns a message saying that the search is restricted to 2014, when in fact the entire period from 2000 to 2022 was selected (the same search for other flights from other companies returns results, normally).

Screenshot – ANAC System

How many flights were taken?

Before entering the analysis, it is worth mentioning that official flights with Ceiba planes were carried out to Brazil, mainly to participate in events and summits. It is not those being analyzed, but commercial passenger flights.

For commercial flights, as ANAC information is not available, AEROIN used photos and videos of enthusiasts, published on the internet, to survey the number of flights. The bases of the repositories of Jetphotos, Airliners, Flickr, Youtube were used (click on the links to see the photos of the Ceiba plane in Brazil).

Only the Boeing 777-200LR CS-TQX was researched, that is, flights with another Boeing 777-200LR and with a Boeing 767-300 are not included in the analysis. The number of flights verified by photos and videos is in the chart below. The number of flights, however, was greater than that, as not all were photographed and published.

Below, a video shows the CS-TQX parked at São Paulo Air Base in December 2012.


The case of unauthorized flight

Of all the flights, one of the most curious took place on February 18, 2015, which resulted in a notice of infraction from the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), after the CS-TQX aircraft made a flight to Brazil without authorization.

In fact, it was a misunderstanding, where the flight was supposed to take place on the 16th and February, but ended up taking off two days later. Despite being a one-off case, it is very important, because it proves that Ceiba flights were indeed commercial flightsand that there is no justification for its disappearance from the ANAC database.

Remembering that if were diplomatic flights there would be no fine. See below the evidence of the process with the excerpt that talks about the unauthorized flights highlighted.

Guinea’s dictatorship

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) classifies the government of Equatorial Guinea as a dictatorship. Below is how HRW ranks the country.

“Corruption, poverty and repression continue to plague Equatorial Guinea under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979. Vast oil revenues fund luxurious lifestyles for the small elite around the president, while a large part of the population continues to live in poverty. Mismanagement of public funds and credible allegations of high-level corruption persist, as do other serious abuses, including torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trials. Obiang’s eldest son and possible successor, Teodorin Nguema, was convicted in France of embezzlement and money laundering charges. In two separate cases, the United States and Switzerland agreed to make a deal with Teodorin, resulting in the confiscation of assets that would be used to benefit the people of Equatorial Guinea.”

The US State Department says the same in a report available on the internet.


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