Washington — USA has seized a Boeing 747 cargo plane that officials said had been sold by a sanctioned Iranian airline to a Venezuelan state-owned company in violation of U.S. export control laws.
He Justice Department reported on Monday that the American-made plane arrived at Florida and it will be discarded.
The plane had previously been transferred from Mahan Air — an Iranian airline that officials say supports the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force. Iran — to Emtrasur, a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary of a state company that had previously been sanctioned by the United States.
According to officials, the sale, carried out without authorization from the US government, violated export control laws and also improperly benefited the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Mahan Air has been under restrictions on its business by the US government for years.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the full force of American law denies hostile state actors the means to engage in malign activities that threaten our national security.”Undersecretary of Justice Matthew Olsen, director of that agency’s national security division, wrote in a statement.
The plane was detained in June 2022 by Argentine police and US officials a few weeks later made arrangements to take possession of it. Argentina officially handed over custody of the plane to the United States on Sunday, official sources said.
The Justice Department said the aircraft will now “be prepared for disposal” although it did not provide details.
The Justice Department has identified the ship’s registered captain as a former Revolutionary Guard commander. Authorities also cited a flight list they say was recovered that shows additional flights, after the transfer to Emtrasur, to locations such as Moscow, Caracas and Tehran, all without U.S. approval.
Mahan Air has denied having any ties to the ship, and Venezuela has demanded Argentina let the plane go.
The Venezuelan government issued a statement accusing Argentina and the United States of “collusion” and violating international aviation regulations and the “commercial, civil and political rights” of Emtrasur.
The statement denounces “the shameful rapacious operation” and says that Venezuela “will use all available resources within the framework of the national Constitution, diplomacy and international law” to recover the ship.
On Sunday, members of the Alba Alliance — an international alliance led by Venezuela — condemned Argentina for its participation in the process that allowed the United States to take possession of the plane, which they described as “theft.”
“This aggression is another of the consequences of the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States government, which threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela and violate the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United States. United Nations and International Law”the alliance said in a statement.