A US Court has authorized the seizure of a $45 million Boeing 737-7EM business jet owned by Moscow-based Russian oil and gas corporation Lukoil.
According to documents released by the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas on August 31, 2022, the jet, registered VP-CLR, breached the Department of Commerce’s sanctions against Russia when it arrived in Houston in Texas in March 2019. At the time, the bizjet has been carrying a Lukoil officials, including multibillionaire Russian oligarch Vagit Alekperov, then president and chief executive of the London-listed oil and gas company, on board.
“The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure, finding probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of federal law,” the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs explained in a public statement.
However, it is believed that the bizjet, which flew into and out of Russia in violation of the US sanctions, is currently located in Russia.
Lukoil has been subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) since 2014. The US further tightened sanctions on Russia and its companies following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
“The U.S. Department of Commerce issued sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions impose export controls and license requirements to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests,” the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs wrote. “The Russia sanctions expanded prohibitions on the export, reexport or in-country transfer of, among other things, U.S.-manufactured aircraft to or within Russia without a valid license or license exception.”
The US’s expanded sanctions on Moscow now include stricter export controls and a tougher jet license policy. The ongoing case alleges that the jet is in violation of these regulations.
“There is probable cause to believe that the Boeing was reexported in violation of ECRA [Export Control Reform Act, ed.-] and regulations, orders, and licenses issued thereunder, including the Russia sanctions,” Gina Makowski, special agent, Commerce Bureau, wrote in the application for a warrant to seize the bizjet.
The US agent continued: “The Boeing [the bizjet, ed.-] was a U.S.-manufactured aircraft classified under ECCN 9A991 and on the CCL. Therefore, a BIS license was required for its reexport to Russia (i.e. for it to fly from a foreign country to Russia) – but no licenses were applied for or issued. Nor was any license exception available because the Boeing was owned and controlled by PJSC LUKOIL […] that has been subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control since September 2014.”