NYT: Iran Gets an Unlikely Visitor, an American Plane, but No One Seems to Know Why

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by NYCUA1K, Apr 17, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Link to increasingly strange story...

    President Obama has warned that Iran is not open for business, even as the United States has loosened some of its punishing economic sanctions as part of an interim nuclear pact.

    Yet, on Tuesday morning, Iran had an unlikely visitor: a plane, owned by the Bank of Utah, a community bank in Ogden that has 13 branches throughout the state. Bearing a small American flag on its tail, the aircraft was parked in a highly visible section of Mehrabad Airport in Tehran.

    But from there, the story surrounding the plane, and why it was in Iran — where all but a few United States and European business activities are prohibited — grows more mysterious.

    While federal aviation records show the plane is held in a trust by the Bank of Utah, Brett King, one of its executives in Salt Lake City, said, “We have no idea why that plane was at that airport.”

    Continue reading...
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
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  2. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Yes, there are many questions and mysteries surrounding this story! The first one would likely be: "Why does a small community bank in Utah own a jet capable of long-haul international travel"?
     
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  3. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    "The Bank of Utah is listed as a trustee for 1,169 aircraft, ranging from Boeing 747s to single-engine Cessnas, according to a review by The New York Times of the database. The Bank of Utah acts as a trustee for more planes than just about any other bank, the review shows.

    Mr. King, who helps run the bank’s trust services business, said the bank had no “operational control” or “financial exposure” to any of the planes.

    He said he was not allowed to disclose the identity of the plane’s investors. “As fiduciary, we must keep information confidential when it comes to the beneficiary,” Mr. King said."

    The first paragraph would seem to explain to explain your question, and the second and third make sense, also.

    I buy the statement in the article that the plane wasn't on some kind of covert government mission. If it were, you'd think they'd know not to park it in such a visible part of the airport, and to perhaps take the flag off the plane as well.

    I'm not sure what to make of the last paragraph in the article: "For his part, Mr. King said Thursday in an interview that he was trying to get to the bottom of the aircraft’s presence in Tehran. “The Bank of Utah is very conservative, and located in the conservative state of Utah,” he said. “If there is any hint of illegal activity, we are going to find out and see whether we need to resign” as trustee." He says illegal activity. As the article notes, the fact that this is being done so openly suggests that this trip was approved by the US government. Perhaps the word "illegal" is going to be their cover for continuing a relationship with a company engaged in some unpopular (especially in Utah) activities. OTOH, I could be reading too much into his word choice, too.
     
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  4. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Thanks for posting this, Letterboy! Yes, I missed the statement about how many aircraft the Bank of Utah owns, as it's 15 paragraphs into the article, and I had only scanned it. I'm amazed that any bank owns so many airplanes! But, I guess that I shouldn't be, given the tremendous profits that some banks have made, and many have done very well since the financial crisis of 2008. I wonder how the banks customers and shareholders (should they have any) feel about all of this?
     
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  5. foxberg

    foxberg Gold Member

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    One would have to wonder who are the investors in that Bank. That could explain the plane's presence in Iran.
     
  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    They don't own the planes in the sense that you and I own our cars. They are trustees and administer the trust that someone else set up. The beneficiaries of the trust are the "owners" in the traditional sense.

    At least that's my non-lawyer understanding how this "roughly" works.
     
  7. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Thanks, HaveMilesWillTravel! With that information, the Bank of Utah (the investors/board of which - perhaps erroneously - in my mind is composed of staid church-going Mormons) is beginning to sound like an off-shore bank located in the Cayman Islands! ;)
    Newscience
     
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  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Remember Mitt? ;)
     
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  9. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Wow! I didn't think that he spoke Farsi! ;)
     
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  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Mitt? Maybe that is the story here! The fact that this does not seem to be a covert mission, it could be that Mitt -- reported today by the WaPo to be a resurgent pol -- has convinced the administration that, as someone who got very wealthy in a cut-throat business, he has the stuff with which to play hardball with Iran. He could get Iran to give up their nuclear ambitions in exchange for a major capital investment from Bain. Upon getting the green light to undertake the mission as a "private citizen", Romney did simply something he's done many times before; he chartered one of the planes owned by the Bank of Utah...;)
     
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  11. Gargoyle
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    Gargoyle Milepoint Guide

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    And while he's there, he'll prosthetize the mullas to convert to Mormon.
     
  12. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Hmmm...the plot thickens. Tehran Times quotes an Iranian aviation official who denies that an American plane landed at Mehrabad:
    Was this a mirage? The NY Times apparently traced the plane to the Bank of Utah because it had a call number, no?
     
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  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Update:

    Iran’s foreign ministry (Persian) now says the plane is owned by Ghana and was ferrying senior government officials to a meeting, and
    WSJ (sub. req.) has this deadline:
    U.S.-Registered Jet in Iran Is Ghanaian
    Plane That Mysteriously Landed in Heavily Sanctioned Tehran Turns Out Not to Be U.S. Owned
     
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  14. ducster
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    ducster Gold Member

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    Darn, I thought it was there for the next season of Homeland....
     
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  15. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/19/w...-flagged-plane-in-iran-has-ties-to-ghana.html

    According to the New York Times, the plane is not owned by Ghana, but is owned by the Bank of Utah and leased to/operated by a Ghanian mining company owned by the brother of Ghana's president. It looks like the Wall Street Journal said that too, but I could only read the first paragraph (don't have a subscription). The NYT article further states that a license from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control would be needed for the plane to travel to Iran, and that such a license was not issued. The article also talks about the concerns that US officials have with these kind of trust arrangements.

    Also, do we know what kind of plane it is?
     
  16. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    Total fluff piece from NYT, my hometown newspaper, did not mention that Iran Air has Boeing airframes as well as GE engines in many of it's Airbuses :)

    http://www.iranair.com/Portal/Home/Default.aspx?CategoryID=742a23a9-fe70-4dc6-8317-149435a09eb0
     
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  17. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    @Counsellor ? That's who I would ask!!
     
  18. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    Bombardier http://www.aircraftdomain.com/tail-number/n604ep.html
     
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  19. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    Essentially that's correct. The bank is the nominal owner, as Trustee administering a trust someone (individual or other juridical entity) set up. The beneficiary of the trust is the one who "owns" the asset in the sense of profiting from it, and someone else is probably directing the Trustee as to what assets within the trust to sell, what to buy, and what to license to whom.

    There are a number of advantages (legal and practical) to having property held in a trust, and banks quite often manage trusts. Indeed, many banks' proper names include the term "Trust" to reflect that (e.g., "First National Bank and Trust Company"). It can be quite profitable for the Trustee.
     
  20. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    Not really.

    The bank is nominal owner, but only as trustee. The assets in the trust came from whomever set up the trust, probably the entity that "really" owns the plane; the bank just gets paid to administer the trust. Neither the bank, nor its investors (shareholders), are likely to have put up the money to buy the plane.

    Some of these trusts can get very complicated. For instance, for tax and cash-flow purposes some airlines sold the planes they owned to another entity (sometimes a daughter corporation), incorporated solely for the purpose of borrowing money to "buy" that one airplane from the airline and then lease it back to the airline from which they purchased it, which gave the airline the money up front to spend on other things while still having the use of the plane; the daughter corporation pays off the loan from the lease payments from the airline, which payments the airline can deduct annually as current expenses.

    Other trusts are investor trusts, which may be set up by a Limited Partnership and designed to purchase an asset (like an airplane) which they then lease to an organization that subleases it on a "time-share" basis to a number of users.

    When the subject of a trust is something technical, administering the lease can require specialized information on how the asset is used, as well as expertise in tax matters related to that type of asset. Oil and gas wells come to mind, and it wouldn't surprise surprise me to learn that the same is true of aircraft. If one bank, even though a sleepy community bank, becomes a repository of expertise in that arcane field, people wanting to set up such trust are likely to do it there, no matter where the settlor (entity that sets up the trust) actually resides or is incorporated.

    So, a bank in Utah may be trustee for trusts owning airplanes all around the world, even though none of the beneficial owners are from -- or can even spell -- Utah.
     
  21. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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