The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted a request to seize a Boeing 747 freighter, which was unlawfully sold to Venezuelan carrier EMTRASUR and then grounded in Argentina, on the basis that it is suspected of being linked to terrorist organizations.
According to a statement, the US DOJ has asked the Argentinian authorities to seize the 36-year-old Boeing 747-300M cargo plane (registration YV3531) because its sale to EMTRASUR, a Venezuelan cargo airline, and a subsidiary of CONVIASA, from Iranian airline Mahan Air violated US export laws. It is worth noting that Mahan Air and CONVIASIA are subject to US sanctions.
The news comes almost two months after Argentinian law enforcement impounded the freighter at Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires.
EMTRASUR’s Boeing 747 freighter first landed in Buenos Aires on June 6, 2022. However, two days later, Argentinian authorities detained the plane, which had returned to Argentina after it was denied access to the Uruguayan airspace.
The fact that the 747 freighter, which typically needs just five crew members to operate, was carrying 19 people, including several Iranians, has sparked suspicion.
Shortly after the incident, Argentina’s state news agency Telam reported that five Iranian people onboard the aircraft were pilot instructors.
However, the captain of the 747 freighter was later identified as an ex-commander for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and a shareholder and member of the board of Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air. The US government keeps the IRGC on a terrorist organization watchlist.
In addition, Argentinian authorities also searched the 747 and found “a Mahan Air flight log documenting the aircraft’s flights after the unlawful transfer to EMTRASUR”, according to US DOJ.
“This seizure demonstrates the FBI’s persistence in using all of our tools to hold the Iranian Government and affiliated individuals and companies accountable when they violate US laws,” said Acting Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Kevin Vorndran of the FBI. “The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to seek out those individuals who contribute to the advancement of Iran’s malign activities and ensure they are brought to justice, regardless of where, or how, they attempt to hide.”