On Tuesday, a New York Times reporter in Tehran spotted an American plane at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, an extremely unique sight given the harsh sanctions imposed on the country by the United States and other Western nations.
For an American plane to enter Iran legally, a number of hoops would need to be jumped through. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control needs to give approval for an American aircraft to travel to Iran—they gave a “no comment” to the Times. Complicating things further, the jet’s engines are made by General Electric, meaning that the Commerce Department would also have to sign off on allowing American-made equipment to enter the isolated country.
So whose plane is it? The plane’s tail number is N604EP, which records show is owned by the Bank of Utah (it also has a small American flag on its tail). This means almost nothing. As the Times notes, the Bank of Utah is a relatively small community bank with 13 branches in the state. However, the bank is a trustee for 1,169 planes, “more planes than just about any other bank.”
Owning the plane through a trust allows the owner privacy. A bank employee said that the bank has no operation control or financial exposure to the planes. They're owners by proxy.
There is one slight clue though. The jet was spotted in Zurich, Switzerland on January 22, 2014, right around the time of the World Economic Forum in Davos. That probably narrows the list down to 2,633 powerful people.
If you own a Bombardier Challenger CL-604 with the tail number N604EP, or know somebody who does, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.