US asks Argentina to seize Iran-linked Venezuelan plane


An American flag flies in front of the U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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BUENOS AIRES, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday sought permission to confiscate an Iranian plane sold to Venezuelan owners and seized in Argentina, suspected of being linked to international terrorist groups, the agency said in a statement. statement.

The plane’s unexpected arrival in Argentina on June 8 sparked weeks of intrigue as well as concerns within the Argentine government over its ties to Iran and Venezuela and US-sanctioned companies. The plane was grounded by local authorities upon landing. Read more

The forfeiture request follows the unsealing of a warrant for the plane’s seizure on July 19 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which alleged the plane could be confiscated because it violated export control laws, the DOJ said.

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The DOJ said the US-made Boeing 747-300 plane is subject to sanctions because its sale from Iranian Mahan Air to Emtrasur last year, which is part of the Venezuelan Consortium of Aeronautical Industries and Air Services (Conviasa), violates US export laws. Both companies are sanctioned by the United States for alleged collaboration with terrorist organizations.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division said in the statement.

Mahan Air is sanctioned for its links with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF), a US-designated terrorist organization. The United States sanctioned Conviasa in 2019 for its ties to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“The seizure of this aircraft demonstrates our determination to hold accountable those who seek to violate U.S. sanctions and export control laws,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said.

Fourteen Venezuelans and five Iranians were traveling on the plane when it arrived in Buenos Aires. Seven of them are still being held in Argentina.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Reporting by Daniela Desantis and Walter Bianchi; Written by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Brendan O’Boyle and Christian Schmollinger

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