US seeks to confiscate Iran-linked plane grounded in Argentina

Justice Department says it believes the Boeing 747-300 is tied to international terrorist groups

The Boeing 747-300 has been grounded in Buenos Aires since June 8. AFP
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The US has asked for permission to confiscate an Iranian plane sold to Venezuelan owners that was grounded in Argentina on suspicion that it was linked to international terrorist groups.

The unannounced arrival of the plane in Buenos Aires on June 8 resulted in weeks of intrigue, as well as concerns within Argentina over its ties to Iran, Venezuela and companies under US sanctions.

The plane was grounded by Argentine authorities after landing.

The confiscation request came after the unsealing of a July 19 warrant in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, asking for the plane to be seized.

The Department of Justice said the Boeing 747-300 was subject to sanctions because its sale last year breached US export laws. It was sold by Iran's Mahan Air to Emtrasur, which is part of the Venezuelan Consortium of Aeronautical Industries and Air Services and is better known as Conviasa.

Both companies have been hit with US sanctions for allegedly collaborating with terrorist organisations.

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

Mahan Air was placed under sanctions over its ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, which was designated as a terrorist organisation by the US.

Conviasa was hit with US sanctions in 2019 for its ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government.

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

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

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

Updated: August 03, 2022, 7:47 AM