The controversial Jumbo, which has been parked in Argentina since June, after evidence emerged of its links with terrorists in Iran, was officially seized in Buenos Aires.
The Emtrasur Boeing 747-300, one of the few of this Jumbo variant still in operation in the world, arrived in Argentina bringing a load of automotive parts from Mexico. While the cargo itself was arranged as stated, the crew list was not, due to the lack of names in the official flight documentation, which began to generate suspicion.
The Jumbo was recently incorporated into the fleet of the Venezuelan state-owned company and previously belonged to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline linked to terrorism, as the United States says. Because of this, and afraid of being punished for doing business with the company, the fuel providers at Ezeiza Airport decided not to fuel the aircraft.
To try to circumvent this problem, the company obtained a supply in Montevideo, but, shortly after take-off, entry into Uruguayan airspace was denied because the plane was not authorized to land there.
Evidence was emerging that the Iranians on board (in a number far above the required number of crew for the aircraft) were people linked to the government of Iran and had ties to organizations considered terrorists. As a result, the plane was searched and seized for documents and placed under surveillance.
Last week, in the most recent development, the US asked Argentina to seize the plane, preventing it from leaving the country once and for all due to its links with Iran. Then, yesterday, the 11th, Argentine judge Federico Villena issued the order, complying with the US request, for the Jumbo to be seized.
Immediately FBI agents in the country went to the aircraft and inspected it, in addition to having it sealed, according to Reuters.
Days ago, the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, had protested and demanded the release of the aircraft, which he said “was stolen by the Argentine government at the behest of the US”. The Casa Rosada spokeswoman said that the situation is extraordinary and that it did not generate a diplomatic incident with Venezuela, which has Argentina as one of the few allies on the continent.