The Department of Justice today completed execution of a final forfeiture order of an American-made Boeing 747 cargo plane previously owned by Mahan Air, a sanctioned Iranian airline affiliated with the Corps' Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF), a designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
On February 11, the Argentine government transferred physical custody of the aircraft to the United States pursuant to the Final Forfeiture Order, which was issued by the United States Court for the District of Columbia on May 3, 2023, which still remains in effect. force. , title and interest in the aircraft in the United States of America. The Boeing 747 cargo plane has arrived in the Southern District of Florida where it will be prepared for disposal.
The seized U.S.-built plane was transferred by a sanctioned Iranian airline in a transaction that violated U.S. export control laws and directly benefited the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a designated terrorist organization, said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department. National Security Division. The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the full force of U.S. laws deprives hostile state actors of the means to engage in malicious activities that threaten our national security.
Mahan Air, known for transporting weapons and fighters for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, violated our export restrictions by selling this aircraft to a Venezuelan cargo airline. Now its ownership is with the United States government, said Assistant Secretary for Export Controls Matthew S. Axelrod. The arrival of seized aircraft in the United States is a striking example of our continued efforts to prevent Iran and its proxies from exploiting and profiting from American technology.
The United States' confiscation of the Boeing 747 cargo plane is the culmination of more than 18 months of planning, coordination and execution by the United States government and our Argentine counterparts, said United States Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. Bad actors, near and far, are on alert. that the United States will use all its tools to hold those who violate our laws accountable. The successful seizure of the Boeing 747 underscores our commitment to preventing the illegal export of U.S. technology and enforcing U.S. export control laws.
Using a whole-of-government approach, we worked with our international partners to confiscate an aircraft transferred by Iranian entities in violation of U.S. sanctions and export control laws, said United States Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia . Foreign adversaries who seek to illegally use U.S.-made products to further their efforts should know that the United States government will work with the international community to hold them accountable for their illegal conduct. The United States values collaboration with Argentina's law enforcement and justice system. the partners.
Transferring this plane to U.S. custody is the final step in the long process to bring this matter to its rightful conclusion, said Larissa L. Knapp, executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch. The FBI, in collaboration with our federal government and international partners. , has used every tool under our authority to hold the Iranian government and its affiliates accountable for violating U.S. laws.
The plane had already been stopped by Argentine law enforcement. On July 19, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a seizure warrant for the aircraft, which Argentine authorities quickly executed. On October 20, 2022, in support of its ongoing criminal investigation, the United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint alleging that the aircraft were being transferred from Mahan Air to Empresa de Transporte Areocargo del Sur, SA (EMTRASUR), a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary. of ConsorcioVenezolano deIndustriasAeronuticas yServiciosAreos, SA (CONVIASA), a Venezuelan state-owned company, violated U.S. export control laws. As alleged, Mahan Air was subject to a temporary refusal order from the Department of Commerce, which prohibited, among other things, Mahan Air from engaging in any transaction involving any merchandise exported from the United States and subject to the administrative regulations on exports. The complaint further alleged that the unauthorized transfer of this aircraft directly benefited the FQ-IRGC.
According to court documents, the plane's registered captain was a former IRGC commander and a shareholder and board member of a second sanctioned Iranian airline, Qeshm Fars Air, affiliated with the IRGC-QF. Argentine law enforcement also recovered a Mahan Air flight log documenting the plane's flights after the illegal transfer to EMTRASUR and confirmed additional violations of U.S. export control laws between February and May 2022, when EMTRASUR re-exported the aircraft between Caracas, Venezuela; Tehran, Iran; and Moscow, Russia, without authorization from the U.S. government.
This matter is being investigated by the Department of Commerce Field Office, Miami Bureau of Industry and Security, and the FBI Miami Field Office.
Assistant United States Attorney Rajbir Datta for the District of Columbia, Assistant United States Attorney Andy R. Camacho for the Southern District of Florida, and Prosecutor Alexander Wharton of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division are handling the seizure and investigation, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Brian Rickers and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick. Senior Counsel John Beasley and Attorney Jesse Ormsby of the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs; Special Agent Adam Mastriani and Task Force Officer Robert Cunniff of the FBI Miami Field Office; and Ricardo Hernández, of the FBI Legal Attaché in Buenos Aires, provided significant assistance in working with Argentine authorities, led by Argentine Federal Judge Federico Villena and the US Marshals Service, to manage the difficult logistics and coordination of the physical transfer of Boeing aircraft from Argentina. in the USA.
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