A day after Argentina seized a Venezuelan-flagged cargo plane at the Buenos Aires Airport and detained its crew, Iran's top private airline on Sunday denied reports that the aircraft belonged to it.
In a statement, Mahan Airlines said the plane seized in Argentina was owned by Venezuela and had nothing to do with the Iranian airline.
A Venezuelan-flagged Boeing 747, allegedly owned by Iran's Mahan Air, was reportedly seized by Argentinian civil aviation authorities immediately after arrival at the Ezeiza International Airport on Saturday.
In the incident that took place during Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Tehran, the cargo plane blacklisted by the US was immobilized and the five-member crew was detained at the airport.
Argentina's Security Minister Fernandez Anibal took to Twitter to confirm the incident, linking the seized plane to Iran's Mahan Airlines and saying the five detained men carried Iranian passports.
Reports in the Argentinian media said the plane had been leased by Venezuela's state-owned Konviasa Airlines. Some reports also linked the detained crew to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Mahan Airlines, however, dismissed the reports and said the ownership of the plane had been transferred to a Venezuelan company for a year and was not leased.
The flight crew, it said, belonged to Venezuela and had nothing to do with Mahan Airlines.
The statement further said the seizure of the plane had "political motives.”
The incident came hours after Maduro held talks with top Iranian officials, including Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, in which the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to expanding ties in the face of US sanctions.
Mahan Air was in October 2011 placed on a sanctions list by the US Department of Treasury, linking it to IRGC's Quds Force.
In November last year, the airline was hit by a major cyberattack. The hackers said they sought to obtain documents linking the airlines to the IRGC. Mahan Air, however, said it had thwarted the attack./aa