Federal investigators said a series of shell companies were set up to buy needed equipment from US suppliers for Iran’s Mahan Air, helping the airline circumvent longstanding US sanctions.
Officials at the Trump administration are using a case against an Iranian airliner to thwart a multibillion-dollar deal between Boeing and flag carrier Iran Air for the sale of new passenger planes, US reports say.
The push comes as President Donald Trump is considering whether to grant licenses to Boeing to sell 80 planes to Iran Air under a deal signed in December 2016.
Trump has taken an aggressive stance on Iran, and pledged to ditch a landmark nuclear agreement which made the Boeing deal possible if radical changes are not made in the accord.
With his May deadline for a revision of the nuclear deal looming large, “administration officials indicated that he would oppose the deal”, the Jerusalem Post reported from Washington.
“Now they have begun offering evidence that would provide a rational basis for denying the ultimate aircraft sale,” the Israeli newspaper said.
The officials have cited a new US government filing accusing Iran’s Mahan Air of violating American sanctions through the purchase of US-made jet engines and parts.
Federal investigators say the airline used Turkish companies to procure needed equipment from US suppliers.
“The revelation could bolster a case by some within the Trump administration against granting Boeing Co. licenses to sell Iran scores of new planes,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Boeing has signed a separate deal with Iran’s Aseman Airlines for the sale of at least 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets.
Trump’s opposition could further affect Iran Air’s deal with Airbus for the purchase of 100 passenger jets. The Iranian company has already received three Airbus jets in 2017 but the first Boeing delivery is due around May 2018.
Iranian officials have said the US government’s refusal to issue licenses would violate the nuclear deal which requires Washington to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services”.
But the Trump administration and many members of Congress are convinced that Mahan Air’s alleged violations would make a case for having the Boeing deal halted, consistent with US law and in compliance with the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Jerusalem Post wrote.
The US government accuses Mahan Air of shipping weapons and military personnel to Syria – charges which the airline and Iranian officials have denied.