And Who’s the ‘VIP’ Passenger?
A private jet bearing the American flag was spotted this week at an airport in Tehran, an oddity considering the fact that the U.S. is not currently doing business with Iran.
The plane, which was seen Tuesday at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran, according to the New York Times, is owned by the Bank of Utah, a community bank in Ogden that operates 13 branches across the state.
The plane’s tail number, according to Gawker, was spotted recently in Zurich at around the time that the city hosted the annual World Economic Forum.
The same tail number regularly pops up in Ghana. But there’s a good reason for this: That’s where the plane is based.
“I looked up this airplane in my database,” Tyler Bowron, a specialist who works for a Colorado-based company that deals in aircraft sales and acquisition, told TheBlaze Friday.
“[I]t’s based in Accra, Ghana. The bank of Utah holds the note on the airplane, but it’s operated by Engineers & Planners Company, Ltd. Mr. Adi Ayitevie is listed as the Executive Director,” he said.
Here’s some FAA background on the plane marked N604EP:
The plane’s recent presence in Iran, a country where nearly all U.S. business activities are prohibited, raises questions about whether current U.S. sanctions were violated.
U.S. law “would generally prohibit U.S. registered aircraft from flying to Iran,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday. “The Department of Treasury will look at this and see if there is a concern here.”
The U.S. Treasury would determine “if there was any violation of sanctions here — I’m not predicting there was,” she added.
Now, it’s possible that the plane, a member of the Bombardier Challenger 600 series, acquired a clearance from the U.S. Commerce Department to touch down in Iran for an official business trip.
“[S]ome former federal officials,” the Times reported, “said the very presence of an American-flagged aircraft parked in broad daylight suggested its flight had been approved as part of a legitimate business trip. What is more, they said, the easily identifiable plane was not likely to be part of a covert diplomatic mission.”
But acquiring permission to conduct business with Iran is extremely difficult due to current U.S. trade rules.
Also, let’s not forget about the plane’s passenger: No one seems to know his identity. When pressed for details, Mehrabad Airport officials would only say that he was a “V.I.P.”
Bank of Utah Vice President Brett King said Thursday that he is as confused as everyone else by the plane’s presence in Iran.
“We have no idea why that plane was at that airport,” King said.
He vowed that the bank would investigate the issue and try to get some answers.
“The Bank of Utah is very conservative, and located in the conservative state of Utah,” he told the New York Times. “If there is any hint of illegal activity, we are going to find out and see whether we need to resign” as trustee.
The U.S. State Department and Commerce Department did not immediately respond to TheBlaze’s request for comment.
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This post has been updated with additional information on the plane’s background.