Iranian IRGC pilot of the seized Boeing-747 in Argentina

On June 6, 2022, Argentinean Authorities ordered the confiscation of a Boeing 747-3B3M heavy cargo aircraft of Emtrasur Cargo due to suspected ties to the terrorist designated Iranian IRGC, the cargo branch of Venezuelan flag carrier Conviasa once it landed at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza Airport. The aircraft in question was a Boeing 747-3B3M of Mahan Air. It was in use by the Venezuelan cargo airline since February 2022 and had already airlifted tens of tons of cargo across Latin America.

What brought the YV3531’s confiscation to the attention of the media was the rumors about possible ties of its five Iranian crew members to the Quds Force branch of Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Corps (IRGC).

The Boeing 747-3B3M in question was previously operated for passenger flights between various cities of Iran by Mahan Air with EP-MND Iranian civil registration code until it was converted into a cargo aircraft by Fars Co (also known as Fajr Ashian) aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center during its D-Check or heavy maintenance in 2021.

After the end of its D-Check, EP-MND was painted in the colors of Emtrasur Cargo in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, and received the YV3531 Venezuelan civil registration code in January 2022 before being officially delivered to the new operator in February of this year. Conviasa and Mahan Air jointly used this aircraft to carry a variety of cargo across the world mainly from Iran to Venezuela and also from Mexico and other countries to Venezuela.

An investigation conducted by the author of this report shows that the pilot of the aircraft, Gholamreza Qasemi is a former General of the Aerospace Force of Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Corps who has had direct involvement in cargo flights of Fars Air Qeshm, a cargo branch of Mahan Air to Syria. During these flights, weapons and ammunition were also airlifted to Syria by the two Boeing 747-281Bs. In this report, we review the past of Gholamreza Ghasemi.

Mehran Jannatseresht, a former flight engineer of Tu-154M passenger aircraft who was the head of Aeroflot (Russia’s flag carrier) in Iran in the early 2000s when he met Gholamreza Qasemi for the first time told the author about the ties of Gholamreza Qasemi, pilot of the impounded Boeing 747, to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Corps:

“In was in 2005 or 2006, I was chief of station and representative of Aeroflot in Iran, I was also a Tu-154M flight engineer, but I wanted to fly with Il-76 heavy cargo aircraft as flight engineer as well. I was introduced to a Cargo airline named Fotros which was operating the aircraft type. During my visit to the office of the airline, I met Gholamreza Qasemi, who at the time with the rank of Brigadier from IRGC was head of its operations.  Just a few days later, the airline became defunct. Later I found out that Fotros was a front company of the IRGC Air Force and it carried weapons and ammunition to African and Middle Eastern countries!”

Qasemi was quickly promoted and was assigned to the external and commercial operations of the IRGC Air Force starting from Fotros Airlines. After his retirement from the IRGC with rank of Brigadier General in 2009 he joined Mahan Air where he supervised its cargo flight operations.


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