Venezuelan plane returns home with 12 of 19 crew members
The detention of the now-released Venezuelan plane reeks of American intervention, as the FBI handles the investigation in Argentina, with a crew member calling the intervention a shortcoming of the latter's governmental abilities.
As the Venezuelan plane held in Argentina returned on Friday at the Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía international airport, Minister of Transportation and president of the state-owned Conviasa, Ramón Velásquez Araguayán, told teleSUR: "We are celebrating the arrival of our first 12 crew members of our Emtrasur airplane (a subsidiary of the state-owned Conviasa), they are an example of ethics, strength and revolutionary struggle that they have endured and here they are arriving with the joy of all Venezuelans when they arrive to their country, happy to set foot on Venezuelan soil."
The plane, named Empresa de Transporte Aerocargo del Sur (Emtrasur), carried only 12 of 19 crew members as the judge of the case prohibited the departure of seven other crew members: the pilot Gholamreza Ghasemi, Abdolbaset Mohammadi, and the Venezuelans Víctor Pérez Gómez, considered the general manager of operations, the mechanic José García Contreras and Mario Arraga Urdaneta, on the basis that there was still evidence to look into.
The plane first landed on June 6 in Argentina to deliver cargo consisting of auto parts from the German company Volkswagen, but just as it was about to leave Argentinean territory that same day, the plane did not receive any fuel from local companies for fear of the sanctions that the US could impose.
According to AFP, one of the Iranians that are ordered to remain in Buenas Aires is Gholam-Reza Qasemi, which the US alleges is an ex-IRGC member.
With 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members, the flight proceeded to Uruguay two days later on June 8 to refuel in order to return to Venezuela but was met with rejection by Uruguayan authorities to land in the country and was rerouted to Ezeiza, Argentina. Following the series of events, the US Department of Justice sent a request to Argentinian authorities to seize the Boeing 747 3B3 aircraft, which was bought from Mahan Air, an Iranian aviation firm, and which was sanctioned by the US for alleged connections to terrorism.
In an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen Espanol's Madelein Garcia, Iranian Master Flight Instructor and the main pilot of the Boeing 747 aircraft, Gholamreza Ghasemi, disclosed that they entered Argentina with a passport paper and according to international laws, and left with the same paper and no conflicts arose until the Argentinian authorities refused to supply fuel for the plane.
Later on, a judge in Argentina accepted the US' petition to confiscate the aircraft under investigation by Venezuela's justice system. The case file stated that the plane was under the control of Venezuela's Emtrasur, which allowed "the re-export of the aircraft between Caracas, Venezuela, Tehran, Iran, and Moscow, Russia, without the permission of the US government."
In another exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen Espanol, Mario Arraga of the detained crew members, expressed his shock after discovering that the FBI is accountable for his detention, wondering if Argentina lacks its proper governmental investigative body. He recalled that at one point they were informed that the United States was on the front lines and behind what was going on with them.
“Today there is an order issued by the court of a federal judge in Florida ordering the confiscation, that is, the seizure, of our plane... However, the Public Prosecutor approved the Florida court's decision... As a result, the plane is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America," he concluded.
On his account, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pushed for the return of the aircraft, stating on the VTV channel: "Now they intend to steal our plane, as they stole our gold in London, as they stole from us [oil refinery in the United States] Citgo, steal a plane belonging to Venezuela ... We declare our protest that the Venezuelan plane be returned to us."