Turkish officials have released a cargo jet loaded with 1.5 tons of undocumented gold that was seized at Ataturk Airport on January 1, levying only a symbolic fine. The Airbus A300 cargo jet left Istanbul on the 18th with the $65 million worth of gold still aboard, to resume its flight to Dubai. Had the aircraft and its precious cargo been seized for smuggling, the plane’s owner, Turkish company ULS, could have been fined up to $195 million.
The jet had been scheduled to land at Sabiha Gökçen Airport on Istanbul’s Asian side on January 1, but was diverted by fog to Ataturk, on the European side. When questioned by different customs officials than they had planned on meeting, the aircraft’s crew presented altered and incomplete documentation, prompting an inspection by authorities that revealed the cargo.
The plane’s flight plan said that it was en route from Ghana to Dubai, but rampant speculation in the Turkish press claimed it had actually come from Algeria and was on its way to Iran. UAE news site Al Bawaba claims that the cargo plane was in fact on its way to Iran with a stopover in Dubai, but that the gold was indeed from Ghana to pay “financial commitments to Iran.”
(information from Hurriyet Daily News also used in this story)