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Broadcast Report: Grand Jury Wants To Know If Airline Sold Parts To Iran

November 24, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal grand jury is investigating whether Aer Lingus, the Irish airline, illegally shipped U.S. aircraft parts to Iran during a six-year period, according to a broadcast report Wednesday.

The operation was discovered earlier this year when U.S. Customs agents in Miami seized evidence during an investigation of another aircraft firm, according to Wednesday’s ″CBS Evening News″ television report.

Since 1981, the airline is suspected of selling millions of dollars of parts of C-130 planes to Iran, CBS said.

A Justice Department source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that there was an investigation under way but could not comment on its status.

The parts helped Iran keep its C-130 fleet, built up during years of peace with America, in good condition for the war with Iraq, CBS said.

Selling U.S.-made parts for the planes, which are used for many purposes including supplying troops and refueling jet fighters in flight, was made illegal after Iran seized U.S. hostages at the Teheran embassy in 1979.

CBS quoted law enforcement sources as saying the airline made a huge profit by ordering parts for its own civilian version of the C-130 and then illegally shipping them from London to Iran until 1987.

CBS said Aer Lingus confirmed the investigation but refused to comment.

It also said the Irish embassy acknowledged that the Irish ambassador visited the State Department last month to express his government’s concern about the case involving the private airline.

If charged with illegally shipping the parts and then convicted, Aer Lingus faces several million dollars in fines.

CBS also reported that although an indictment is expected, the State Department has expressed some reservations about bringing charges against the national airline of a close ally.

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