Cablegate: Got Status Update On Transfer of Boeing 747 to Iran by Ankair: The Plot Thickens
DE RUEHAK #1417/01 2211531
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 081531Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7080
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 1033
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 3258
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL IMMEDIATE 4582
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI IMMEDIATE 0081
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T ANKARA 001417
EEB/ESC/TFS FOR CHERYL BRUNER, ISN/CPI, COMMERCE/OEE, EUR/SE, NEA/IR E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2028
TAGS: EAIR ETRD ETTC IR PARM PK PREL TU UK
SUBJECT: GOT STATUS UPDATE ON TRANSFER OF BOEING 747 TO IRAN BY ANKAIR: THE PLOT THICKENS REF: SECSTATE 84112
Classified By: Economic Counselor Dale Eppler for reasons 1.4 (b) and ( d).
1.(U) This is an action request. Please see para.
2.(S) SUMMARY: On August 8, Econoffs met with Turkish MFA officials regarding the transfer of an Anka Air Boeing 747 to Iran and the potential transfer of two additional planes (reftel). According to information provided to the MFA by Yavuz Cizmeci, Anka Air CEO, the 747 was sold on May 20, 2008 before the issuance of the Temporary Denial Order (TDO) to Mr. Sam David Mahjoobi, a UK citizen not named in the TDO. The sales agreement contained a provision that the plane not be resold to entities in a list of prohibited countries, including Iran. Mahjoobi requested that the plane be deregistered in Turkey for transfer to Pakistan and the certificate of deletion was issued by the Turkish DGCA for that purpose. On June 27, the plane departed Istanbul airport for Karachi, and made a "technical landing" at an airport in Iran, where it remains. Cizmeci has reportedly contacted both Mahjoobi and the Iranian authorities requesting that the plane be delivered to its intended destination in Pakistan. One of the two MD-80 aircraft discussed in reftel was sold to a UAE firm and is currently registered in Ukraine. The other aircraft remains parked at Istanbul airport and has no plans to be sold. END SUMMARY.
3.(S) ACTION REQUEST: The GOT is investigating the case and has asked for any information that we can provide, specifically about Mr. Mahjoobi, about the Galaxy Aviation Trade Company named in the original TDO, and about the terms of sale of the plane by US company AWAS to Anka Air. Turkish MFA also asked for any information we could provide concerning whether the 747 (serial number 24134, Turkish tail number TC-AKZ) was ever registered or de-registered in Pakistan, and if so by whom.
4.(SBU) On August 9, Econoffs met at the MFA with Ersin Ercin, DDG of Americas and Basat Ozturk, DDG for Maritime and Aviation Affairs. They stated that they had been investigating the case since the issuance of the original TDO and provided a status update of the results so far.
5.(S/ REL TO UK) According to MFA, Yavuz Cizmeci, the CEO of Ankair contacted them immediately upon receipt of the TDO to present his case to them and ask for assistance. He claimed that he had indeed received an offer for the plane from Galaxy Aviation Trading Company, but that the offer was too low and he rejected it. He had, however, already sold the Boeing 747 to Mr. Sam David Mahjoobi, a UK citizen residing in the UK, on May 20, 2008, some two weeks before the issuance of the TDO. According to the terms of that agreement, Mahjoobi was not allowed to resell the plane to entities in a list of prohibited countries, including Iran. Mahjoobi was described to the MFA as a reputable member of the UK aviation industry (Comment: A quick search of the Internet revealed no information to support this claim. End comment.)
6.(S/REL to UK, PAKISTAN) Following the sale of the plane, Mr. Mahjoobi contacted the Turkish DGCA and provided the sale agreement, asking that the plane be deregistered in Turkey so that it could be transferred to Pakistan, where it was to undergo maintenance and upgrades. The Certificate of Deletion was issued for transfer solely to Pakistan. On June 27, the plane left Istanbul Airport en route to Karachi, when it was forced to make a "technical landing" at an unspecified airport in Iran, where it remains and where its status is unclear. The MFA conceded the possibility that the plane might have been registered and de-registered in Pakistan and then re-registered in Iran.
7.(S/REL to UK, PAKISTAN) According to the MFA, Mr. Cizmeci has contacted both Mr. Mahjoobi and the Iranian authorities demanding that the plane be delivered to Pakistan in compliance with the sales agreement, with no response from either. He has reportedly called the plane,s continued presence in Iran "an act of piracy." The MFA officials were somewhat skeptical of this claim, but did note that if his story is true then it would be a breach of international law and that presumably both the UK and Pakistan would have a legal right to sue Iran for release of the plane.
8.(S) With regard to the two MD-80s owned by Anka Air, DDG Ozturk reported that one plane (serial number 53184) was sold to a company in the UAE and has been re-registered in the Ukraine under tail number UR-BHJ. The other plane remains parked at Istanbul,s Ataturk Airport and Cizmeci claims he plans to resume using it once Anka Air,s suspended license is restored. He also disavowed any knowledge of XXXXXXXXXXXX and claims no business relationship with them.
9.(S) The MFA mentioned that they expect to receive from Cizmeci a copy of the sales agreement with Mahjoobi as well as the Certificate of Deletion for the 747, and offered to provide copies to us if permitted. They also noted that the Director General of Civil Aviation would be returning from leave on Monday, August 11 and that a meeting was set for that same day to discuss the case with him. They requested that if we have additional questions to ask or information to provide relevant to that meeting that it be sent before Monday morning local time.
10.(S) Comment: The tale related by Cizmeci to the MFA is plausible but not necessarily credible. It is still a bit curious that he purchased the 747 in the first place - the MFA officials noted that Turkey does not have the infrastructure in place to support the plane in terms of trained personnel or experience. XXXXXXXXXXXX The MFA asked Cizmeci for details about the terms of sale from AWAS, but Mr. Cizmeci replied only that it was "at market prices." The GOT seems genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of this case - both DDGs Ercin and Ozturk expressed a desire to make an example of Ankair if necessary to prevent future problems of this nature, and neither seemed to completely buy Cizmeci,s story. They offered to provide updates as their own investigation proceeds, and asked that we share any information that we develop. End comment. Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at XXXXXXXXXXXX