BUENOS AIRES: Argentine authorities have grounded an Iran-linked Venezuelan Boeing 747 cargo plane, a local opposition MP and Iranian state media said yesterday, in an unfolding drama that is throwing a spotlight on political undercurrents in Latin America.
The Emtrasur cargo plane, sold to Venezuela by Iran’s Mahan Air a year ago according to the Iranian airline, arrived in Buenos Aires on June 8, flight tracking data show. It was then seized by authorities, the MP and Iranian media said.
Argentina’s government has not publicly confirmed the seizure, but an Interior Ministry document shared with Reuters said authorities had taken the action due to suspicions over the stated reason for the plane entering the country.
Iran and Venezuela, which are both under US sanctions, have close ties. The two countries on Saturday signed a 20-year co-operation plan. Argentina’s centre-left President Alberto Fernandez has criticised US sanctions against Venezuela.
Argentina’s government did not reply to queries seeking comment about the aircraft. Authorities in Venezuela did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Argentine lower-house MP Gerardo Milman, who has raised attention about the case in recent days, presented a complaint to a judge asking to fingerprint the crew and share the information with the Federal Intelligence Agency.
“Our information is that this is a plane that has come to conduct intelligence in Argentina,” said Milman, a member of the country’s Congressional Intelligence Commission.
According to the Interior Ministry document, shared with Reuters by Milman, 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians were traveling on the plane. It listed the names of those on board.
Argentina courts also have to rule on a habeas corpus filed by a lawyer for the crew to release the aircraft and have passports returned to those on board.