MIAMI – The US is investigating two shareholders of the airline Plus Ultra (PU), which the Spanish government rescued with a €53m loan. The long-haul airline is based at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD).

The recent public rescue of the airline, which is to be paid in seven years, €34m of which came via a participative loan and the rest as ordinary credit, according to La Vanguardia, caused a political storm that reached the European Commission.

According to the Spanish news outlet, El País, PU has been in the red since its founding in 2011. The accumulated losses are estimated at €10.6m.

Plus Ultra EC-NBU Airbus A340-313. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

Alleged Ill-gotten Capital

Now, the US Embassy in Madrid has sent the Spanish government a request for collaboration to track the movements of Venezuelans Héctor Antonio Tobía Roye and Flavio Pedro Bórquez Tarff, two businessmen who are allegedly linked to the Nicolás Maduro regime.

According to Spanish media El Confidencial, the shareholders in question entered the capital of the airline in June 2018 and currently occupy a seat in its administration.

However, both the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional and El Confidencial state that the US authorities are certain that the 2018 operation is related to a large-scale money laundering scheme, reportedly with funds obtained from Chavez-era corruption.

Plus Ultra EC-MFA Airbus A340-313X. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

A State-sanctioned Monopoly?

The government of Spain gave the PU airline the exclusivity of the Madrid-Caracas route in March, according to El Nacional and reported by the Spanish media El Mundo.

The reports note that on March 24, the PU A340 ‘Santa María’ landed in Caracas, with which flights with Venezuela were resumed. PU received the sole authorization of the Venezuelan regime to carry out flights on the route that connects both cities.

With the authorization from both countries, PU has effectively taken away the itinerary that Iberia (IB) had for March 25 and 26 (288 passengers); and those that Air Europa (UX) had scheduled for April 15 and 16 (296 passengers).

Featured image: PLUS ULTRA EC-NBU AIRBUS A340-313. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways