US Makes Plane Seizure After Iran Attempts Sale to Venezuela

( – The Department of Justice has seized a Boeing cargo plane after Iran tried to sell it to Venezuela in violation of US sanctions. The aircraft belongs to an airline affiliated with Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US has designated as a terrorist organization. The plane has been impounded in Argentina for over 18 months while lawyers argued about it.

In 2022, Mahan Air, an Iranian airline with links to the country’s regime and the IRGC, sold a Boeing 747 to Venezuelan airline Emtrasur. The aircraft set out to fly to the South American nation via Argentina — but when it landed in Argentina in June of that year, Argentinian authorities, acting on a US request, impounded it.

Since then it’s been stuck, while Mahan Air denied owning it and Venezuela’s socialist government demanded its release. In response, the Justice Department said the plane’s registered captain is a former IRGC officer and produced flight records showing that after the plane was officially transferred to Emtrasur it made sanctions-breaking trips to Moscow, Tehran, and the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Emtrasur is a subsidiary of a Venezuelan government-owned business that’s also under US sanctions.

On February 12, the Justice Department announced that Argentina had transferred the Boeing to US custody the previous day and that it had now landed in Florida for disposal. As it flew from Argentina to Florida it’s clearly airworthy, so it’s likely to be sold, earning the US government millions of dollars.

Venezuela slammed the seizure, calling it a “shameful rapacious operation,” and said it would take action to get the aircraft back to Emtrasur. However, with the Boeing now in US hands, it’s unlikely there’s anything they can actually do about it.

Meanwhile, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, who heads the DOJ’s national security division, said his department was committed to using “the full force of US laws” to enforce sanctions on hostile states.

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