DUSHANBE, February 18, 2013, Asia-Plus – Tajik private air carrier, Asian Express Airline, is described as a company belonging to Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani.

Asian Express Airline has reportedly appeared on the list of companies, against which the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions.

The list has been posted on the Sanctionswiki’s website and Asian Express Airline is described as a company belonging to Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani.

In the latest sanctions, agreed by the EU last October and put into effect on December 22, 2012, Zanjani was subjected to ‘restrictive measures,” forbidding EU companies or individuals doing Iran-related business with him.

Meanwhile, Zanjani denied any wrongdoing, saying his bank and other companies did not work for the Iranian government.

“This is a mistake,” Babak Zanjani told Reuters on December 23, 2012.  Neither his Malaysia-based First Islamic Bank nor his more than 60 other companies had done anything wrong, he said.

The sanctions, aimed at forcing Iran to curb its nuclear activities, include bans on financial transactions, sales to Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian natural gas. The curbs are in addition to earlier bans, including on the OPEC producer''s oil.

The new EU sanctions describe Zanjani as “a key facilitator for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil related money” and accuses First Islamic Bank of being used to channel Iranian oil-related payments.

Zanjani said the complex nature of his companies'' transactions, involving large sums, might have misled EU authorities.

Zanjani said there were 64 or 65 companies in his group operating in a range of industries such as cosmetics, food, oil and aviation. The website of his Sorinet Group shows at least a dozen company names, mostly based in the UAE, with some in Tajikistan and Turkey.

Asian Express Airline, Dushanbe Bus Terminal and Dushanbe City Center are also among those companies.  Asian Express Airline is on the Main Company List while Dushanbe Bus Terminal and Dushanbe City Center are on the Main Project List compiled on December 24, 2012.

Kont Bank Investment reportedly assumes the 100 percent ownership in the air company.  The website also notes that Asian Express Airline owns 100 percent of shares in Dushanbe Bus Terminal.

Meanwhile, Asian Express Airline director general, Suhrob Oymahmadov, says that their air carrier has nothing to do with Babak Zanjani and his holding.

According to him, he does not know the reason for putting the company on EU’s backlist.   The company has purchased European type aircraft.  “Two Airbus A320s arrived in Dushanbe last year and one more is expected to arrive in Dushanbe in late February,” Oymahmadov said, noting that the company would purchase the remaining planes in Europe as well.                

We will recall that according to information from the Main Civil Aviation Department at the Ministry of Transport of Tajikistan, Asian Express Airline is expected to enter Tajikistan’s aviation market in spring, bringing the total number of the private air carriers in the country to three.

The air company managers reportedly include citizens of Tajikistan and there are foreign citizens among the founders of the company.

According to information posted in Facebook, Limited Liability Company, Asian Express Airline, was established Tajikistan in 2007 and officially registered in ICAO book in Canada with TXP code.  To-date, the company has reportedly purchased aircrafts of AVRO BAe RJ85 and RJ 100 for domestic flights and neighboring countries.  The company has also purchased Airbus A320s to operate flights to the Russian Federation, European countries and UAE.