An Iranian airline that is under US sanctions for supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the Lebanese Shia jihadist group Hezbollah used a Maltese leasing company to bypass sanctions.
According to various testimonies to the US Congress from an American think tank, Iranian airline Mahan Air used Malta to circumvent US sanctions, reported Malta Today.
Mahan Air, which is a private airline with ties to Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was hit with US sanctions three times since the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011 to discourage the airline from transporting troops and weapons to Syria's battlefields in support of Iran's Shia jihadist proxies.
However, an American think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), warned in a recent report to Congress that Mahan Air had found a way to circumvent these sanctions through a network of front companies in various jurisdictions.
The report states that a Maltese subsidiary, Hi Fly Malta, and an Iraqi regional airline, Al-Naser Airlines, acted as an intermediary for Mahan Air for the purchase of four planes from British airline leasing companies between 2013 and 2015.
It is thought that on 8 May 2015, Al-Naser sold these four planes – along with five others – to Mahan Air, allowing the Iranian airline to acquire aircraft in violation of US sanctions.
According to the report, there is no indication that Airbus, Hi Fly Malta, or any other European companies that had owned or leased the planes prior to their sale to Al-Naser were aware of the Iraqi airline's intention to sell the planes to Mahan Air.
Iraq is widely recognised to have fallen almost completely under the sway of Tehran, with Iran backing several Shia Islamist and jihadist factions who directly control several ministries. Iraq's Dawa Party, who has produced almost every Iraqi prime minister since the illegal 2003 US invasion, was incubated and developed by Iran's theocratic regime since the 1980s.
New laws are now being proposed in the US Senate to crackdown on Mahan Air and to hinder its ability to contributing to the arming and resupply of extremist Shia groups who have killed more Syrian civilians in support of the Assad regime than even extremists such as Daesh.