President Alberto Fernández insisted on Saturday that a cargo plane crewed by Iran and Venezuela was only grounded over difficulties refueling, not alleged links to Iran’s elite Kuds force.
There was “no irregularity” with the Venezuelan plane, Fernández told Radio 10, adding that the only problem was refueling difficulties related to US sanctions against Venezuela.
Paraguay’s intelligence chief said on Friday that a man on board the plane, which has been grounded at an airport near Buenos Aires since Wednesday, has ties to the Quds Force.
Intelligence chief Esteban Aquino told AFP that Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi not only shared a name with a member of the force — an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that the US lists as a terrorist organization — but was actually the same man.
But Fernández accused his political opponents of promoting that notion, saying they wanted to “show something that doesn’t exist — something dark” by suggesting a link to terrorism.
The Boeing 747 cargo plane is said to be transporting car parts. Its 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members have been prevented from leaving the country pending an investigation.
The plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico on June 6 before attempting to fly to Uruguay two days later, where it was refused entry.
Uruguay’s Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber said his country had received a “formal warning from Paraguayan intelligence”.
The plane then returned to Argentina, where it has been grounded ever since.
The plane is owned by Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s Conviasa, which is under US sanctions. Conviasa bought the plane from Tehran’s Mahan Air last year, Iranian officials said.
The US accuses Mahan Air of having links to the Revolutionary Guards.
Paraguay said Tuesday it had information that seven crew members on the Emtrasur plane that landed in that country in May were members of the Quds Force.