US asks Argentina to definitively seize the Venezuelan Boeing 747

Emtrasur Boeing 747 – Image: Conviasa

In yet another chapter in the strange story of the Venezuelan (or Iranian) Boeing 747-300M stranded in Argentina, the United States Department of Justice has now asked the Argentine authorities, through a statement, to seize the Emtrasur Jumbo.

According to Aviaconline, the American decision follows the release of a document dated July 19 and filed in the United States Court for the District of Columbia alleging that, because it is an American-made aircraft, it is subject to seizure due to violations of export control laws related to the unauthorized transfer of the aircraft.

The jet flew on Iranian Mahan Air (a sanctioned company that the US understands to be affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force-Qods/IRGC-QF) and, late last year, was handed over to Empresa de Transporte Aéreocargo del Sur (Emtrasur), a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state airline Conviasa.

This aircraft, registered under registration YV3531, has been sealed and stopped at Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, since the beginning of June, under full surveillance by the authorities.

In 2008, the Department of Commerce issued, and has since periodically renewed, an Order prohibiting Mahan Air from, among other things, engaging in any transaction relating to any merchandise exported from the United States that is subject to the Export Administration Regulations.“, indicates the Department of Justice through a press release.

In October 2021, Mahan Air violated this order by transferring custody and control of the 747-300M to Emtrasur without authorization from the US government.

In addition, as alleged in the seizure order, in June 2022, Argentine authorities detained the crew of the Boeing aircraft, including five Iranians. The aircraft commander has been identified as a former IRGC commander and shareholder and board member of the Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air.”says the American statement.

Argentine security forces also searched the aircraft and found a Mahan Air flight log documenting the aircraft’s flights after the illegal transfer to Emtrasur, including a flight to Tehran, Iran, in April 2022. Mahan Air was sanctioned in 2011 by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for providing material support to the IRGC-QF, and Qeshm Fars Air was sanctioned in 2019 for being controlled by Mahan Air and for providing material support to the IRGC-QF”, he added. All this adds up to the fact that Conviasa was also blocked in 2020.

The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws.“, said Deputy Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Department of Justice’s Division of National Security. “Working with our partners around the world, we will give no truce to governments and state-sponsored entities that seek to evade our sanctions and export control regimes in the service of their malign activities.”, he added.

For his part, Matthew M. Graves, US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said that “the seizure of this aircraft demonstrates our determination to hold accountable those seeking to violate US sanctions and export control laws.“.

We will seek to prevent sanctioned entities from accessing or profiting from US-made items. Working with our federal and international partners, we will continue our efforts to bring those who violate these sanctions to justice and confiscate assets where appropriate and lawful.“, Graves continued.

FBI Deputy Director of Counterterrorism Kevin Vorndran said: “This seizure demonstrates the FBI’s persistence in using all of our tools to hold the Iranian government and affiliated individuals and companies accountable when they violate US law.“.

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