Asuncion: One of the men aboard a plane grounded near Buenos Aires has ties to Iran’s Quds Force, Paraguay’s intelligence chief said on Friday, despite claims by Argentina that no evidence links the case to Tehran’s overseas intelligence.
Intelligence chief Esteban Aquino told AFP that Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi did not merely share a name with a member of the Force - an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States - but is in fact the same man.
Argentine Minister of Security Anibal Fernandez responded Friday that while the Paraguayan official “has his right to say whatever he wants... I’m not going to talk about conjecture.”
“We abide by due process. And according to the official documentation, there is no specific relationship with terrorist organizations, according to all the databases,” Fernandez told AM750 radio.
The Boeing 747 cargo plane, reportedly carrying car parts, has been held at an Argentine airport since Wednesday last week, with its 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members prevented from leaving the country pending an investigation.
On Monday, Argentine officials raised suspicions of a link between the flight and the Revolutionary Guards.
The plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico on June 6, before trying to fly to Uruguay two days later, where it was refused entry.
Uruguay’s Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber said on Tuesday the country had been responding to a “formal warning from Paraguayan intelligence.”
It then returned to Argentina where it has been grounded ever since.
The plane belongs to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s Conviasa, which is under US sanctions.
Paraguay on Tuesday said it had information that seven crew on the plane, which stopped in the country in May, were Quds Force members.
Iran has said the plane was sold to a Venezuelan company by Tehran’s Mahan Air last year.
The United States has accused Mahan Air of links to the Revolutionary Guards.