The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday asked Argentina for permission to confiscate the Iranian plane grounded and impounded on landing by local authorities in the country since June on suspicions it was linked to international terrorist groups.
The alleged ties of the plane – registered as a Venezuelan cargo plane after it was sold to Venezuelan owners – to Iran and companies sanctioned by the US sparked weeks of intrigue as well as a concern within the Argentine government since its unannounced arrival from Mexico in Buenos Aires on June 8.
Seven (four Iranians and three Venezuelans) of the fourteen Venezuelans and five Iranians arrested after the plane’s landing are still detained in Argentina while the other 12 crew members were previously released by a court-ordered after weeks of being denied permission to leave Argentina.
The DOJ’s confiscation request stems from a July 19 warrant for the plane’s seizure unsealed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which alleged it violated export control laws.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division said in the statement that the US-origin Boeing 747-300 aircraft is subject to sanctions as its sale from Iran to Venezuela last year violates US export laws, stressing that the DOJ Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate US sanctions and export laws.
Both Iran’s Mahan Air and Venezuela’s Emtrasur, part of the Venezuelan Consortium of Aeronautical Industries and Air Services (Conviasa), are sanctioned by the US for alleged collaboration with terrorist organizations.
While Mahan Air is sanctioned for ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) – a US-designated terrorist organization – Conviasa was sanctioned in 2019 for its ties to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
US Attorney Matthew Graves noted that the plane’s seizure demonstrates the DOJ’s determination to aggressively prevent sanctioned entities from gaining access to US-made items or profiting from their illegal transfer.