Iran smuggles two planes from Lithuania, evading sanctions


Aircraft bound for Sri Lanka and Philippines end up in Iran

Anonymous A340 in a hangar of Siaulai Airport in August 2023 © André Orban

Two Airbus A340 aircraft, owned by Gambia’s leasing company Macka Invest, were diverted to Iran instead of their intended destinations, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, according to a report by The planes departed from Šiauliai, Lithuania, in late February, but turned off their transponders upon entering Iranian airspace. One aircraft landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, while the other landed at Konarak airport in Chabahar.

This manoeuvre allowed Mahan Air, an Iranian aviation company, to recover the planes in violation of US sanctions tied to Iran’s nuclear programme. A third aircraft from Macka Invest was grounded in Šiauliai due to carrying spare parts. Aurelija Kuezada, director of Šiauliai Airport, explained that the third plane was held back to prevent it from potentially landing in Iran.

Oro Navigacija, Lithuania’s state-owned navigation service, noted that the aircraft did not arouse suspicion and that their movements outside Lithuania fell under the jurisdiction of other countries’ air navigation services.




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