Updated: Oct 26, 2022
Were Iran alliances used to by-pass US sanctions law and export controls laws?
What is happening at an airport in Argentina as a Venezuelan cargo aircraft that the USA believes to belong to the Iran Revolutionary Guard is being held?
U.S. Department of Justice Seeks to Seize Boeing 747 Cargo Plane With Emtrasur Insignia Detained in Argentina
The Boeing 747 aircraft was recently transferred from an Iranian airline to a Venezuelan company, both designated and subject to violation of U.S. export control laws.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday transmitted a request to Argentine authorities to seize the Venezuelan-flagged Boeing 747-300 M cargo plane, after a seizure order was revealed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington DC.
The order, which was issued on July 19, 2022, alleges that the U.S.-made aircraft is subject to seizure based on violations of U.S. export control laws related to the unauthorized transfer of the aircraft from Mahan Air, an Iranian airline affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (QodsForce). ), a designated terrorist organization, and Empresa de Transporte Aéreocargo del Sur, S.A. (EMTRASUR), a Venezuelan state-owned cargo airline and subsidiary of the Venezuelan Consortium of Aeronautical Industries and Air Services, S.A. (CONVIASA), were reported in a statement.
In 2008, the Department of Commerce issued, and has since periodically renewed, a Temporary Denial Order that prohibits, among other things, Mahan Air from engaging in any transaction involving any product exported from the United States that is subject to the Export Administration Regulations.
he Justice Department statement says that in the seizure order, it is alleged that around October 2021, Mahan Air violated the Temporary Denial Order and U.S. export control laws when it transferred custody and control of the Boeing aircraft to EMTRASUR without U.S. Government authorization.
Subsequently, additional violations of U.S. export control laws occurred between February and May 2022 when EMTRASUR re-exported the aircraft between Caracas, Venezuela; Tehran, Iran; and Moscow, Russia, without authorization from the United States Government.
In addition, as alleged in the seizure order, in June 2022, Argentine authorities detained the flight crew of the Boeing aircraft, including five Iranians.
"The registered captain of the aircraft was identified as a former IRGC commander and shareholder and board member of Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air."
The statement notes that "Argentine police 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 designated in 2011 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for providing material support to the IRGC-QF. Qeshm Fars Air was also designated in 2019 for being controlled by Mahan Air and for providing material support to the IRGC-QF.
In addition, CONVIASA, EMTRASUR's parent company, was designated by OFAC in 2020 and its fleet was blocked pursuant to an Executive Order in 2019.
Simultaneously with Tuesday's action, the Commerce Department issued a Temporary Denial Order, denying EMTRASUR's export privileges for 180 days with the possibility of renewal.
"The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws," said Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Secretary of the Division of Homeland Security.
"Working with our partners around the world, we will not give quarters to governments and state-sponsored entities that seek to evade our sanctions and export control regimes in the service of their malign activities."
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves said, "The seizure of this aircraft demonstrates our determination to hold accountable those who seek to violate U.S. sanctions and export control laws."
"We will vigorously seek to prevent sanctioned entities from gaining access to or benefiting from U.S.-made items. Working with our federal and international partners, we will be tireless in our efforts to bring to justice those who violate these sanctions and seize assets when appropriate and legal."
"Today's coordinated actions are aimed at the illegal transfer of an Iranian cargo plane to a Venezuelan airline and the subsequent operation of that aircraft by the airline in violation of our rules," said Matthew S. Axelrod, current Undersecretary of Export Control at the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Commerce, Industry and Security.
Axelrod stated that "We will continue to take meaningful and direct enforcement action against foreign airlines operating U.S.-origin aircraft in violation of U.S. export controls."
"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 U.S. law," said acting deputy director of counterterrorism Kevin Vorndran of the FBI.
"The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to search for those individuals who contribute to the advancement of Iran's malign activities and will ensure that they are brought to justice, regardless of where or how they attempt to hide."