Two civil servants of the aeronautical authority of Paraguay They were this Tuesday separated from the position for not having properly controlled the Venezuelan plane with an Iranian crew now held in Argentina, which had been in Ciudad del Este in May loading 70 tons of cigarettes.
The cigarettes were from the tabesa company of the former president of Paraguay Horacio Cartés and sold it to Tabacos Free Zone of Aruba and this, in turn, to Tabacos USA Inc, which is also owned by the former Paraguayan head of state.
The president of Tabacalera del Este SA (Tabesa) and the Union of Tabacaleras of Paraguay, José Ortiz, explained to the Asunción newspaper La Nación that Tabesa has been exporting its products to Caribbean countries, such as Aruba, for more than 20 years, and that the responsible for “hiring the transport are final buyers“. Ortiz denied having committed any type of crime and stated that the operation was legal.
However, the senator of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Desirée Masi Jara stated on Twitter that “Tabesa de Cartes “sells” Tabacos free de Cartes. From sales simulated auto-sales. From the #MoneyLaundering manual.“
“The #Patron and his sheaf enrich and expand catalog of money laundering and tax evasion mechanisms. And related crimes,” added the Paraguayan senator.
A few months ago, Emanuele Ottolenghi, a researcher at the US Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), warned that Lebanon’s Hezbollah is taking advantage of cigarette smuggling and smuggling in general to launder money in Ciudad del Este.
Hezbollah, through its armed wing Islamic Jihad, is accused by the Argentine justice system of being the material author of the attacks against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires (1992) and the AMIA 1994).
And Emtrasur’s Boeing 747 registration YV3531, which is owned by Iran’s Mahan Air, is accused by the United States of having given logistical support to international terrorism leading, for example, Hezbollah soldiers from Lebanon to the civil war in Syria.
The Minister of the Interior and former ambassador to Argentina, Federico González, told the ABC Cardinal radio station that the suspended officials belong to the National Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (Dinac), in charge to regulate and monitor aviation in the country.
One of the officials is apparently the manager of the Guaraní airport, which serves the town of Ciudad del Este, bordering Brazil, where that aircraft landed last May to transport a load of 70 tons of cigarettes to Aruba, according to the official flight plan. In judicial sources, it is striking that Aruba, with 100,000 inhabitants, is going to consume 70 tons of cigarettes.
González indicated that after the plane entered Paraguay, between May 13 and 16, with 18 crew (7 Iranians and 11 Venezuelans), “intelligence work” was launched.
The head of the Interior explained that they later had, upon landing on May 6, information that the ship belongs to an airline sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury. The Boeing 747 was there until May 9 and it is not known what its crew during that period.
In addition, Minister Gonzalez affirmed that the United States provided reports that the Iranian crew members “were or are part” of the group Al Quds that is considered terrorist by Washington.
“We acted accordingly and the corresponding measures were taken,” said the minister, who assured that two Dinac officials “they were removed from their duties” while his responsibility in the case is investigated.
He also revealed that “measures” are being taken within the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Senad), which it should have controlled the ship as well.
The minister confirmed that Paraguay alerted the region’s security forces and agencies about the plane, but clarified that the warning was not issued a month ago but more recently.
Given these alerts from Paraguay and those from the US, however, the Uruguayan government did not allow Emtrasur’s Boeing 747 to enter its airspace.