The weapons plane (archives)
Photo: AP
Plane's crew (archives)
Photo: AP

Report: Seized North Korean weapons were bound for Iran

Wall Street Journal cites documents obtained by arms trafficking experts as saying planeload of arms seized in Bangkok this month were bound for Iran

A planeload of weapons from North Korea seized in Bangkok this month was bound for Iran, a newspaper report said Monday, citing documents obtained by arms trafficking experts.


US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair had said last week that the 35-tonne cargo, shipped in defiance of UN sanctions on Pyongyang, was bound for an unspecified Middle East destination.


The Wall Street Journal, quoting a flight plan obtained by researchers, said the plane was due to make refueling stops in Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine before unloading in Tehran.


The paper said its new information came from a joint draft report by analysts at Chicago-based TransArms and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) in Antwerp.


Thai officials said they impounded the Ilyushin-76 on a US tip-off after it landed to refuel at a Bangkok airport on December 11 with its cargo which included shoulder-launched missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.


The Belarusian pilot and four Kazakh crew have been arrested.


Thai officials said the aircraft flew to Pyongyang via Bangkok two weeks ago to collect the cargo, then returned to Bangkok to refuel on December 11.

The weapons plane grounded in Thailand (Photo: AP)


The plane's crew have said they believed they were carrying oil drilling equipment. The Journal quoted one researcher as saying the crew may indeed have been in the dark, given that flight documents obtained by Transarms and IPIS stated the cargo was "oil industry spare parts."


Organizers of the shipment appeared to have taken great pains to hide their identities, using a variety of companies, the Journal said.


The plane is registered to a Georgia company called Air West which on November 5 leased it to another firm, New Zealand-registered SP Trading, itself apparently a shell company, the Journal said.


In another contract dated December 4, it said, SP Trading leased the plane to a Hong Kong-based company.


The Journal said the Hong Kong company is owned by a second Hong Kong firm, which in turn is owned by a third firm based in the British Virgin Islands, according to company registration documents.


"These companies appear to have organized the cargo," it said.


The plane is actually owned by Overseas Cargo FZE, a company based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, the newspaper cited the researchers' draft report as saying.


It said the company's sole listed shareholder, who gives an address in Kazakhstan, refused comment when asked about the aircraft's seizure.


The United Nations banned all North Korean arms exports in a tougher resolution passed in June following its latest missile and nuclear tests.


The Bangkok case is believed to be the first airborne arms cargo from Pyongyang to have been seized since then.


פרסום ראשון: 12.21.09, 10:52
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