Seized former Iranian-owned Boeing 747 with links to terrorist group lands in US

Mahan Air Boeing 747 EP-MND
Kurush Pawar / flickr / Creative Commons

A Boeing 747-300M which has been at the center of a geopolitical storm and previously owned by the Iranian carrier Mahan Air, has returned to the United States (US) from Argentina.  

The District Court for the District of Columbia issued a seizure warrant for the US-manufactured Boeing 747 cargo plane on July 19, 2022, which Argentine authorities have enforced since.  

A civil forfeiture complaint filed on October 20, 2022, by the US alleged that the aircraft’s transfer from Mahan Air to the Venezuelan cargo carrier Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Conviasa, violated US export control laws. 

According to the US Department of Justice, Mahan Air was prohibited from “engaging in any transactions involving any commodity exported from the United States” that is subject to its Export Administration Regulations.  

The US Department of Justice said on February 12, 2024, that Mahan Air is a sanctioned Iranian airline affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).   

On May 3, 2023, the District of Colombia court issued a final order of forfeiture giving all right, title, and interest in the aircraft to the US. 

On February 11, 2024, physical custody of the aircraft was transferred to the US and the Boeing 747 landed in southern Florida the same day.  

“The United States’ forfeiture of the Boeing 747 cargo plane culminates over 18 months of planning, coordination, and execution by the U.S. government and our Argentine counterparts,” US Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida said. “Bad actors — both near and far — are on alert that the United States will use all its tools to hold those who violate our laws to account.”  

He added: “The successful seizure of the Boeing 747 underscores our commitment to prevent the illegal exportation of U.S. technologies and enforce U.S. export control laws.” 

Following the news, the Venezuelan government, which owns the airline Conviasa, called the arrival of the plane in the US ‘theft’ and hit out at Argentina for its role.  

“The seized American-built aircraft was transferred by a sanctioned Iranian airline in a transaction that violated U.S. export control laws and directly benefited the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a designated terrorist organization,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said. “The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that the full force of U.S. laws deny hostile state actors the means to engage in malign activities that threaten our national security.” 

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