An Airbus A300 cargo jet owned by Turkish company ULS has been seized in the Turkish capital of Ankara, after the crew had counterfeit and missing documents for the 1 and a half tons of gold on board.
Supposedly coming from gold-rich Ghana in West Africa and headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the aircraft has been scheduled to land at the Sabiha Gökçen airport on the Asian side of Istanbul on January 1st for refueling and a crew change, but was diverted by fog to Ataturk International Airport on the European side. When the crew presented incomplete and faked documentation, customs officials inspected the plane and found the huge cargo of gold, estimated at $65 million.
The crew were removed and the jet was sealed and put under guard as the investigation continues. Turkish media has speculated that the plane's flight plan was faked, and that the jet was actually coming from Algeria on its way directly to Iran. According to customs laws, the company ULS can be liable for fines of up to $195 million, triple the value of the cargo.
Turkey has defended its "gold for oil" practice of purchasing natural gas from Iran with bullion, stating that it is not subject to U.S. -imposed sanctions against Iran, only U.N. -imposed sanctions. Iranian natural gas is vital for Turkey's economy, but Iran cannot access international banking resources. Therefore, it demands gold in return for gas.
UPDATE: We reported the surprising resolution on Jan 24.