Paraguay’s intelligence chief said Friday that one of the men aboard a plane grounded near Buenos Aires since last week had ties to Iran’s Quds Force, contradicting Argentina’s government.
Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi did not merely share a name with a member of the Force – the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – but is in fact the same man, intelligence chief Esteban Aquino told AFP.
The Guards are listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Aquino contradicted Argentina’s Security Minister Anibal Fernandez, who said this week there were no Quds Force members on the plane, and Ghasemi merely shared a name with someone on the wanted list.
A Boeing 747 cargo plane, reportedly carrying car parts, has been held at an Argentine airport since Wednesday of last week. Its 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members have been prevented from leaving the country pending investigations.
On Monday, Argentine officials raised suspicions of a link between the flight and the Revolutionary Guards.
Paraguay on Tuesday said it had information that seven crew on the plane, when it stopped there in May, were Quds Force members.
The plane belongs to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s Conviasa, which is under US sanctions.
Iran has said the plane was sold by Iran’s Mahan Air to a Venezuelan company last year.
Mahan Air is accused by the United States of links with the Revolutionary Guards.
The plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico on June 6. It tried to fly to Uruguay two days later, but the country refused it entry and it returned to Argentina where it has been grounded ever since.
Uruguay’s Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber said Tuesday the country had reacted to a “formal warning from Paraguayan intelligence.”