How thick Buenos Aires fog sparked an international dispute over a Boeing 747
On June 6, an Emtrasur Boeing 747-300, registration YV3531, en route to Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), diverted to Córdoba. This seemingly minor incident, caused by heavy fog in Buenos Aires, sparked a geopolitical drama involving the governments of Argentina, Venezuela, Iran and the United States.
Almost two months have passed, and the Boeing 747 is still stuck in Ezeiza, part of the crew is still in Buenos Aires, and just last Tuesday the US Department of Justice issued a statement saying that he requested the seizure of the Boeing 747 cargo plane currently immobilized in Argentina. According to the DOJ, the jumbo jet was recently transferred from a designated Iranian airline to South America in violation of US export control laws.
The trigger: a thick fog
Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuelan airline Conviasa, was transporting auto parts between Mexico and Argentina on June 6, with refueling in Caracas. However, when the plane was near Buenos Aires, it diverted to Córdoba, a city northwest of the Argentine capital. Heavy fog at Ezeiza impacted airport operations and forced the crew to deviate from their original route.
View of the Boeing 747-300 registration YV3531 of Venezuelan cargo airline Emtrasur at Cordoba International Airport, Argentina, on June 6, 2022, before taking off for Buenos Aires. Photo: Getty Images.
The 747 landed in Cordoba to the astonishment of the people at the airport, which is not used to receiving a queen of the skies very often. That same day, a few hours later, the plane departed for Buenos Aires, but by then the public’s eyes were already on it. Why was a Venezuelan freighter in Argentina? Did he turn off his transponder? Why did it have 19 cabin crew members, including five Iranian citizens?
Upon landing in Buenos Aires, the crew began having problems with local authorities and fuel suppliers. On June 8, the Emtrasur crew briefly attempted to depart Buenos Aires for Montevideo, Uruguay on a short flight to refuel before returning to Caracas. Nevertheless, he was soon denied access to Uruguayan airspace, forcing him to return to Argentina.
The plot, like the fog, thickens
A few days after the return of the 747 to Argentina, the government of Paraguay sounded the alarm. He said that Emtrasur also operated a flight to its territory and landed with 18 people on board, including seven Iranian citizens.
In Buenos Aires, one of the Iranian crew members was linked as a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force Corp-Quds and a shareholder and board member of Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air .
The United States Department of Justice has requested the seizure of this aircraft. Photo: Getty Images.
Emtrasur has also sent its 747s to cities such as Querétaro, Toluca, Mexico City (Mexico), Belgrade (Serbia), Moscow (Russia), Oranjestad (Aruba) and Minsk (Belarus), according to data available on FlightRadar24.com.
The plane’s flying record under the Venezuelan regime has raised some eyebrows, as well as the former owner of the 747. Before flying with Emtrasur, this 747 belonged to Mahan Air, the Iranian airline. The airline is said to have sold the jetliner in 2022, and it is expected that Emtrasur could receive at least two more jumbo jets. Nevertheless, Argentine law enforcement also searched the aircraft and found a Mahan Air flight log documenting the aircraft’s flights after the illegal transfer to the Venezuelan carrier.
According to the US Department of Justice, the transfer of the aircraft from Mahan Air violated export control laws; therefore, he is entitled to ask the Argentine authorities to seize the cargo plane.
“Today’s coordinated actions target the illegal transfer of an Iranian cargo plane to a Venezuelan airline and the subsequent operation of this aircraft by the airline in violation of our rules,” he added. . said Under Secretary of Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod of the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. “We will continue to take significant and direct enforcement action against foreign airlines operating US-origin aircraft in violation of US export controls.”
On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said the US government was trying to “steal” a plane belonging to Venezuela.