US says it’s taken possession of Boeing 747 Iran illegally sold to Venezuelan firm

WASHINGTON — The US government has seized a Boeing 747 freighter that officials say was previously sold by a sanctioned Iranian airline to a Venezuelan state-owned company in violation of US export control laws.

The Justice Department said Monday that the American-built plane had arrived in Florida and would be removed.

The plane had previously been transferred from Iranian airline Mahan Air – which officials allege provides support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – to Emtrasur, a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary of a state-owned company that had previously been sanctioned by Iranian authorities. United States. Officials said the sale, which took place without U.S. government approval, violated export control laws and also improperly benefited Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards.

Mahan Air has been subject to US government sanctions for years.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the full force of America’s laws denies hostile state actors the means to engage in malign activities that threaten our national security,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the department national security, in a statement. a statement.

The department said the aircraft would now be “prepared for disposition,” although it did not elaborate.

The Venezuelan government on Monday called the transfer a “shameful predatory operation” and vowed to “take all measures to restore justice and secure the return of the aircraft to its legitimate owner.” The statement did not provide details on next steps.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government also accused the US and Argentine governments of “conspiracy” and of violating civil aviation regulations “as well as Emtrasur’s commercial, civil and political rights.”

The plane was detained by Argentine law enforcement in June 2022, and U.S. officials moved to take possession of it several weeks later. Argentina officially transferred custody of the plane to the US on Sunday, officials said.

The Justice Department has identified the registered captain of the plane as an ex-commander of the Revolutionary Guards. Officials also cited a flight log they said was recovered showing additional flights to locations including Moscow, Caracas and Tehran after the transfer to Emtrasur — all without U.S. government approval.

Mahan Air has denied any connection to the plane and Venezuela has demanded that Argentinian authorities release the plane.


Associated Press writer Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas contributed to this report.