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Montevideo, June 8th 2023 - 14:30 UTC



Emtrasur scandal: Pilot's cell phone shows he belonged to Al Quds

Thursday, June 23rd 2022 - 09:47 UTC
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The pictures prove Ghasemi has a military past The pictures prove Ghasemi has a military past

The cell phone belonging to the Iranian captain of the Venezuelan-flagged Boeing 747-300 seized by Argentine authorities at the Ezeiza international airport included pictures of a much younger Gholamreza Ghasemi being a fighting member of the Al Quds Revolutionary Guard, it was reported Wednesday in Buenos Aires.

 There are also images of missiles, tanks, and a flag that says “death to Israel,” according to a translation from Farsi writing. Experts were said to be still working on a more accurate translation, it was also reported. It remains to be seen what these findings amount to now that Ghasemi has been charged with terrorism.

The cell phones of all the crew members of the Emtrasur aircraft owned by Iran's Mahan Air were seized at the request of Prosecutor Cecilia Incardona who decided to indict the chief pilot.

Ghasemi is now expected to argue that he did his military service and that most of the young men in his country are members of the Al Quds Revolutionary Guard, which are anti-American and anti-Israeli brigades. His defense team might also argue that these are old photos that would prove no crime, let alone one committed in Argentina. They will also claim that if Ghasemi had any illegal activity he would have erased the photos.

Incardona charged Ghasemi on the basis of an FBI report which states that the pilot was an executive and part of the board of directors of Oeshm Fars Air, which some years ago -according to the US agency- flew between Tehran and Beirut carrying arms. Israel's Mossad reportedly stressed this was indeed the case.

Lomas de Zamora Federal Judge Federico Villena has requested more documents to determine the ownership of the plane, which used to fly under Iran's Mahan Air colors. The question is whether it has been sold to Venezuela's Emtrasur (a cargo subsidiary of Conviasa) or if it is merely on a “wet lease” (an agreement whereby aircraft are rented together with a crew). The opposite would be a “dry lease” in which the airplane alone is handed over to an airline with the crew and resources to operate it, which is obviously not the case of this particular Boeing 747-300.

Argentina's Chief Intelligence Officer Agustín Rossi claimed that the joint presence of Iranians and Venezuelans among the crew was because the aircraft had been sold by Mahan Air to Conviasa but the Venezuelan pilots still needed to be fully certified to operate it. Hence the alleged teaching role of the Iranian pilots, which Israeli sources have ruled out.

Both Conviasa and Mahan Air are said by US authorities to have links with terrorism.

The other intriguing aspect of the Emtrasur's 747 saga is that it was Paraguay who alerted Argentina and Uruguay of the airplane's blacklisting, but it was in Paraguay's Ciudad del Este that the same aircraft and the same pilots had landed a month ago to bring tobacco cargo to Mexico belonging to former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartés.

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