Paraguay's Chief Intelligence Officer Esteban Aquino Friday confirmed the Iranian pilot Gholamreza Ghasemi held in Argentina was not a namesake but the actual member of the Quds Forces, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps specialized in military intelligence operations.
A former Mahan Air Boeing 747-300 airplane has been seized at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza airport for suspicious maneuvers now under the ownership of Venezuela's Emtrasur, pending investigations on the aircraft and on the crew of Iranian and Venezuelan nationals.
The Paraguayan official's remarks would contradict statements from Argentina's Security Minister Aníbal Fernández, who claimed the pilot's identity had not been established with full accuracy.
Aquino explained that Gholamreza Ghasemi ”has been here (in Paraguay) and that his presence in that country was still open and under investigation.
I can tell you that according to what was confirmed to us by allied agencies, this is a person linked to the Quds, without any doubt. It is not similar, it is not homonymous or anything. It is the person and that is worrying, Aquino said in a radio interview.
The important thing is that we must say which side to be on, we know that there are countries that receive, finance, and sponsor terrorism, then we cannot be so naive and mix things up, and not make the corresponding alerts when people who have been linked to that regime of terror in the transport of technology, weapons, etc. enter [the country], he added.
Aquino also underlined that Paraguay's Intelligence Secretary had done its job and that countries in the region had been alerted of the pilot's background.
Minister Fernández admitted that subsequent to the [aircraft's] entry, information was received through different channels from foreign organizations that warned [us] about the belonging of part of the crew to companies related to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, but fell short of confirming the captain's identity on the grounds that it could be a namesake.
Meanwhile, judiciary authorities in Argentina have removed the aircraft's black box in their quest for evidence of malfeasance on the part of the crew, including the alleged switching off of the transponder, the device whereby airplanes are tracked by air traffic controllers.
Several media coverages reported on the transponder issue, but aviation authorities have denied these allegations citing the aircraft can be followed on flightradar 24” all along and that if an aircraft was to vanish from the screen all protocols would be activated.
Boeing company staff have also been involved in the ongoing investigation, it was reported through unofficial sources since the case is under a seal of secrecy.
Five Iranians and 14 Venezuelans were on board the Emtrasur plane. They are all now housed at a hotel near the airport, their passports withheld, and thus unable to leave the country.