US Seizes Plane Amid Iran’s Attempted Sale to Venezuela

( – On Feb. 12, the Department of Justice seized a Boeing 747 cargo plane that had been sold in 2022 to a Venezuelan state airline by Iran’s Mahan Air.

The sale of the plane to Venezuela’s Emtrasur airlines violated the U.S. sanctions imposed in 2008 on Mahan Air due to its affiliation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to officials in Washington, D.C. A branch of the Iranian military, the IRGC has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

In a statement, Assistant Secretary of Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod said that Mahan Air, which is known to supply weapons to the IRGC and Hezbollah, “violated our export restrictions” by selling the plane. According to authorities, further violations occurred when the plane was flown between February and May 2022 from Venezuela to Tehran and Moscow.

The U.S. has been seeking to take possession of the plane since July 2022, when the U.S. obtained a seizure warrant, causing the plane to remain grounded in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fourteen Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members were detained by Argentine authorities after the aircraft was grounded in Buenos Aires. One of the crew members detained by authorities was the pilot of the plane, identified as Gholamreza Ghasemi, an ex-commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the seizure warrant. In January, an Argentine judge ruled that the plane be surrendered to the United States.

The Venezuelan government described the ruling requiring Venezuela to return the plane to the U.S. as “theft,” and vowed it would “take all actions” to ensure the plane is returned “to its legitimate owner.”

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Nasser Kanaani called the U.S. seizure of the plane “illegal,” adding that the move violated the United Nations Charter.

The plane was manufactured at some point between 1982 and 1990 in the United States and had an initial price of $83 million. The Department of Justice said the plane will be disposed of after it arrives in Miami, Florida.

Copyright 2024,