Owner of ‘mystery plane’ looking for compensation

Owner of ‘mystery plane’ looking for compensation

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Owner of ‘mystery plane’ looking for compensation

ULS’s cargo plane has been kept at Istanbul Atatürk International Airport since Jan 1. DHA photo

An A300 plane, one of two cargo planes in the fleet of Turkey’s ULS firm that was allegedly carrying 1.5 tons of unregistered gold worth $65 million, was still being held at Istanbul Atatürk Airport yesterday, as ULS executives said they were preparing to take legal action against an anonymous Dubai firm, the owner of the suspicious load.

Turkish customs officials, meanwhile, said they had not been informed about the content of the load as of yesterday, which was the deadline.

In a phone interview yesterday, a company executive stated that holding the plane at the airport was the fault of the Dubai firm, which had failed to submit to Turkish officials the required documents after a compulsory landing on Jan 1.

“We have informed officials that we would carry gold,” the company executive said, telling that the remaining countries on the route were also informed.

ULS maintains that it cannot be fined for compensation, contradicting media claims that it may be fined triple the value of the gold, $195 million, if it is found guilty following official inspections.

Telling that their reputation was damaged, the company prepares to launch a lawsuit. ULS does not wish to declare the name of the Dubai firm until legal advisers have been consulted but it may organize a press meeting within a couple of days, the executive stated.

ULS was expecting the plane to be leaving Atatürk Airport today.

The plane has been kept on the runway under the surveillance of private security officers, until the examinations are completed in accordance with customs regulations. Turkish customs officials told the Daily News yesterday that they would decide on the next step after the end of the legal deadline yesterday.

Reportedly, the plane was initially going to land at Sabiha Gökçen on Istanbul’s Asian side on Jan. 1, but was diverted to Atatürk Airport because of heavy fog for refueling and a personnel change. After checks the plane was held back because of missing documents.

Claims over Iran trade

Several media reports said the alleged gold cargo might be related to Turkey’s “gold for gas” trade with Iran. Turkey and Iran trade gold for gas to bypass a U.S. embargo on the Islamic Republic for its alleged nuclear weapons program. Turkey sold $6.5 billion worth of gold to Iran and another $4.2 billion portion to the U.A.E. in the first 11 months of 2012, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said last week.Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the U.A.E.