TEHRAN, IRAN — Despite ongoing international sanctions against Iran, the country's civil aviation body has confirmed the arrival of four Airbus A340s in the last days of 2022.

Hassan Khoshkho, a spokesperson for Iran's Civil Aviation Organization (CAO), avoided providing further details on how those planes were acquired and who mediated the order.

On Dec 24, four A340-300s took off from Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa and landed in the Iranian capital, although the arrival destination of the A340s was reported as Uzbekistan's Tashkent in their flight plans.

Current sanctions against Iran by the U.S. and the European Union prevent Iranian airline operators from ordering modern, western-built aircraft. Due to these sanctions, the country's leading airlines cannot renew their outdated fleets.

According to experts who spoke to Turkey's Anadolu News Agency, the Airbus 340s could have been ordered through clandestine transactions to bypass the sanctions. The planes that are subject to hidden order were previously operated by Turkish Airlines and recently registered in the West African country Burkina Faso.

Iran Air, Mahan Airlines, and Kish Air had to cease many of their overseas operations in recent years due to the lack of new aircraft and spare parts.

The planes currently operated by the Iranian carriers were acquired from Airbus before the Donald Trump administration declared in 2018 that the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions against the country.

Western governments previously expressed their concerns that commercial aircraft could potentially be used to assist Iranian military operations, including the shipment of arms, military personnel, and other supplies in support of armed conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The Airbus A340 is a long-range, quadjet passenger airliner that was developed and produced by the European planemaker. The aircraft made its first flight in 1991 and began operations with Air France and Lufthansa in 1993.

As of June 2022, there were 207 A340 aircraft in service with 45 operators worldwide. Lufthansa is the largest A340 operator, with 26 aircraft in its fleet. Airlines around the world are gradually replacing their A340s with newer generation widebody jets due to the high operating costs of the aircraft.