A Utah plane that ended up in Iran is registered to a bank in the United States, and that has prompted two warnings from a government watchdog this year. The plane, a Bombardier CL-600, became the subject of international intrigue.
The story broke by the New York Times after the paper revealed its presence at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, along with a picture of the jet, its tail number and a small American flag affixed to the side.
Government officials are not saying how and why the plane traveled to Iran.
Except for some approved activities by the U.S. Department of Treasury, federal regulations generally prohibit economic activity between the U.S. and Iran, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Aviation records show the plane is registered to the Bank of Utah through an arrangement in which the bank serves as a trustee for aircraft owners.
Scott Parkinson, senior vice president for marketing and communication with the Ogden-based bank, said the financial institution is aware of the plane in Iran but is not investigating at this point.
“As far as the legality of that, flying into that country, that’s really between the beneficiary and the Department of State, and maybe the FAA,” Parkinson said. “Not us.”
But the practice has drawn scrutiny from the federal government recently.
A government watchdog warned last June and again in January that non-U.S. citizens have registered 5,600 planes with the Federal Aviation Administration through trustees, concealing the owners’ identities.
Under FAA regulations, this can be done by the owner creating an agreement to transfer the plane’s title to a trustee that is a U.S. citizen. The trustee then registers the plane. The agreements provide little information on the identity of the owner or who uses the plane, according to a memorandum by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.
In 47 registrations closely examined by the inspector general, the non-U.S. citizen who created the trust had complete authority to remove the trustee, and thus control over the plane.
Just five trustees accounted for 3,283 of the planes registered on behalf of non-U.S. citizens, the memorandum said. One trustee required the inspector general to obtain a subpoena before complying with a request for information.