The Russian energy firm PJSC LUKOIL's Boeing 737-7EM is the subject of a search order obtained by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
Russian-owned Boeing business jet may be seized
PJSC LUKOIL is a global oil and gas corporation with its headquarters in Moscow. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern State of Texas authorized the seizure after finding that the company's Boeing 737-7EM planes had broken the law. Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed sanctions on it. The export limits and license requirements imposed by the sanctions were put in place to protect American national security and foreign policy. It was prohibited by the United States to "export, reexport or in-country transfer of, among other items... to or inside Russia without a valid license or licensing exception."
The Russian-owned aircraft allegedly flew into and out of Russia in violation of the Department of Commerce's sanctions. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the aircraft was last on American territory. A Russian tycoon and then-President and CEO Vagit Alekperov were on board the LUKOIL 737 that took out for Houston in March 2019. The Boeing 737-7EM, with manufacturer serial number 34865 and tail number VP-CLR, is owned by LUKOIL and is valued at $45 million. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of the Treasury has sanctioned the Russian energy business since 2014.
The Boeing 737's seizure is being organized by Task Force KleptoCapture of the Justice Department. "An interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the broad sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, have imposed in response to Russia's unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine," according to the task force's mission statement. The force is managed by the office of the Deputy Attorney General and was announced by the Attorney General in March. The seizure investigation and action have attracted the attention of the FBI, Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney's office, Trial Attorneys, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Recent DOJ seizure warrants
The Venezuelan cargo airline EMTRASUR had a 747-300M freighter that the DOJ was able to confiscate with a warrant in July. Empresa de Transporte Aéreocargo del Sur, a state-owned airline, is the owner of the 747. (EMTRASUR). Assuming that those on board may have had ties to terrorism, Argentine officials had the plane grounded in June. The U.S. authorities desired that the plane be flown there so that it could be seized.
There were 19 persons on board the aircraft when it made its landing in Buenos Aires, including the captain, who had previously served as a commander for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and as a shareholder and board member of the Iranian carrier Qeshm Fars Air. The IRGC Qods Force is thought to have received supplies from Feshm Fars Air, and many nations—including the US—classify it as a terrorist organization.
This Boeing 747-300M was seized at the request of the US Department of Justice. Image from Getty Images.
The entire story about the EMTRASUR seizure warrant was covered by Simple Flying, and it can be read here.
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