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Defected Syrian pilot says he made trips to Russia and Iran to ‘collect cash’

Published: Updated:

A defected Syrian pilot told The Sunday Telegraph that he was part of the Syrian regime’s air fleet to Russia, where he amass money to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The pilot, who asked the Telegraph to identify him as Nazim, said that he and his fellow pilots “flew a cargo plane two or three times a month” to collect funds that were used to allegedly support the regime.

Nazim spoke from a border town in Jordan, where he sought refuge with his family. He confirmed that he was on flight to Russia last April “to collect cash, ”adding in August last year, at least 15 flights were carried to Russia.

Nazim explained that the cargo always had “a combination of Syrian pounds, euros and U.S. dollars.”

“When we landed at Damascus, protected cars from the Syrian bank were waiting for us at the airport to take the money straight to the bank” he said.

His account seems to confirm the Western intelligence officials’ belief that the Assad government is being supported by Russia and has been receiving weapons from Iran, according to the newspaper.

The Sunday Telegraph said it was not possible to verify Nazim’s account but the interviewee had presented them with a Syrian Air identity card.

The pilot said that the planes were owned by the Syrian air force but had been presented as “civilian aircraft, part of the national carrier, Syria Air,” during these trips.

Russia is a staunch Syrian ally and has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions which looked to oust Assad and end the war in his country.

Russia is not subject to a U.N. ban on arms trade given Moscow is not in violation of any U.N. rules when conducting weapons commerce with Syria.

Nazim, 50, also told the newspaper that at least 20 missions were made to Tehran to gather arms and explosives.

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