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US asks Argentina to seize grounded Venezuelan plane

August 3, 2022 05:35 PM


The United States asked Argentina Tuesday to seize a Venezuelan plane that has been grounded in Buenos Aires since June after an Iranian airline allegedly violated Washington sanctions by selling it to Caracas.

The Boeing 747 cargo plane, owned by the Venezuelan company Emtrasur, has been stuck with its 19 crew members at a Buenos Aires airport since it arrived on June 8 from Mexico with a shipment of auto parts, after having tried unsuccessfully to enter Uruguay.

The crew is made up of five Iranians and 14 Venezuelans. On July 19, a US court in the District of Columbia issued an order to seize the plane on the grounds that US "export control laws" were violated.

The court alleged an "unauthorized transfer" from Mahan Air -- an airline affiliated with the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF), which Washington considers a terrorist organization and has sanctioned -- to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan company Conviasa, which is also under sanctions from the US Treasury.

"The Department of Justice will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen in a statement.

"We will aggressively seek to prevent sanctioned entities from gaining access to America-made items or profiting from their illegal transfer," added another US attorney, Matthew Graves.

In 2008, the US Department of Commerce issued an order prohibiting Mahan Air from engaging in transactions involving products exported from the United States.

"As alleged in the seizure warrant, in or around October 2021, Mahan Air violated the Temporary Denial Order and US export control laws when it transferred custody and control of the Boeing aircraft to EMTRASUR without US Government authorization," the Justice Department said in a statement.

The statement came a day after a judge in Argentina said that 12 of the crew members from the grounded plane could leave the country, although four Iranians -- including one suspected of being an IRGC member -- and three Venezuelans were ordered to stay.



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