US seeks seizure of Boeing 747 cargo aircraft grounded in Argentina

Photo: Freedomz/ Shutterstock

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has transmitted a request to Argentinian authorities to seize a Boeing 747-300M cargo aircraft that is currently grounded in Argentina and alleged to being unlawfully operated by a Venezuelan cargo airline.

Issued on July 19, the seizure warrant alleges that the US-made plane is subject to forfeiture based on violations of US export control laws.

The DOJ said on August 2 that these violations are related to the unauthorised transfer of the plane from Mahan Air, an Iranian airline affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), “a designated terrorist organization”, to Empresa de Transporte Aéreocargo del Sur (EMTRASUR), a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary of Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos, S.A (CONVIASA), a Venezuelan state-owned company.

In 2008, the US Department of Commerce issued, and has since periodically renewed, a Temporary Denial Order prohibiting Mahan Air from engaging in any transaction involving any commodity exported from the US that is subject to the Export Administration Regulations.

As alleged in the seizure warrant, in or around October 2021, Mahan Air violated the Temporary Denial Order and US export control laws when it transferred custody and control of the Boeing aircraft to EMTRASUR without US Government authorisation.

Additional violations of US export control laws subsequently occurred between February and May 2022 when EMTRASUR re-exported the aircraft between Caracas, Venezuela; Tehran, Iran; and Moscow, Russia, without US Government authorisation, the DOJ claimed.

Further, as alleged in the seizure warrant, in June 2022, Argentinian authorities detained the flight crew of the Boeing aircraft, including five Iranians.

Argentinian law enforcement also searched the aircraft and found a Mahan Air flight log documenting the aircraft’s flights after the claimed unlawful transfer to EMTRASUR, including a flight to Tehran, Iran, in April 2022.

Mahan Air was designated in 2011 by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for providing material support to the IRGC-QF, and Qeshm Fars Air was designated in 2019 for being controlled by Mahan Air and for providing material support to the IRGC-QF.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]