• DTS.USA
    5.320
    -0.013
    -0.2%
  • NTI.USA
    2.800
    0.000
    0%
  • NTID.USA
    2.760
    -0.100
    -3.5%
  • NTIDL.USA
    1.940
    -0.100
    -4.9%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.190
    0.010
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,391.500
    -166.900
    -1.3%
  • DTS.USA
    5.320
    -0.013
    -0.2%
  • NTI.USA
    2.800
    0.000
    0%
  • NTID.USA
    2.760
    -0.100
    -3.5%
  • NTIDL.USA
    1.940
    -0.100
    -4.9%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.190
    0.010
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,391.500
    -166.900
    -1.3%
Air CargoAmerican ShipperNews

US moves to confiscate Venezuelan 747 cargo jet with Iran ties

Freighter held in Argentina as investigation continues

The U.S. government asked Argentina on Tuesday to seize a Venezuelan Boeing 737-300 freighter with links to Iran for violation of export control laws.

The plane has been held by Argentine authorities since it landed in Buenos Aires in early June because of U.S. sanctions and concerns about potential espionage, news wires previously reported. Argentine officials are trying to determine what to do with the cargo plane loaded with automotive parts and an unusually large crew of 17, including at least five Iranians.

A warrant unsealed in a federal district court alleges Mahan Air, an Iranian airline alleged to be affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, transferred the aircraft without authorization to Emtrasur Cargo, a subsidiary of a Venezuelan state-owned company.

Iran and Venezuela, which are both under U.S. sanctions, have close ties. The U.S. defines the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.

Mahan Air has been denied since 2008 from exporting any U.S.-made commodity subject to security-related export regulations. Flying the aircraft across Iran’s border is prohibited under the sanctions. The warrant alleges that Mahan Air violated U.S. law when it sold the plane to Emtrasur Cargo last October. The companies further violated the denial order between February and March when Emtrasur flew the plane between Caracas, Venezuela; Tehran; and Moscow without U.S. permission, according to a Justice Department news release.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security also issued an order suspending Emrasur’s export privileges for 180 days for acquiring custody of a U.S.-origin Boeing 747 aircraft from Mahan Air in violation of U.S. export controls and flying it to Iran and Russia.

Anyone providing refueling, maintenance, repair, or spare parts or services to a sanctioned aircraft could be subject to U.S. enforcement too.

The registered captain of the aircraft detained in Argentina was identified as an ex-commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a shareholder and member of the board of Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air, the Justice Department said.

Argentinian law enforcement also found a Mahan Air flight log documenting the aircraft’s flight activity. 

Mahan Air has been under U.S. sanctions since 2011 for supporting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. Qeshm Fars Air was designated for sanctions in 2019 for being controlled by Mahan Air and supporting the Quds Force. 

Emtrasur’s parent company was designated by OFAC in 2020 for assisting targeted regimes involved in terrorism and other activities that threaten U.S. national security. 

“The seizure of this aircraft demonstrates our determination to hold accountable those who seek to violate U.S. sanctions and export control laws,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia. “We will aggressively seek to prevent sanctioned entities from gaining access to America-made items or profiting from their illegal transfer. Working with our federal and international partners, we will be unflagging in our efforts to bring to justice those who violate those sanctions and to seize assets where appropriate and lawful.”

The 36-year-old Emtrasur 747-300 is one of 21 combination passenger-cargo versions made by Boeing. Overall, the 747-300 did not sell well compared with other variants because it was more expensive and didn’t have many upgrades, according to Simple Flying.

The FBI, Department of Commerce, and Bureau of Industry and Security are also involved in the investigation. 

Enforcement of Russia sanctions

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Industry and Security also added 25 Airbus aircraft to its list of aircraft that have been flown into Russia or Belarus in violation of sanctions applied in March over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. BIS has identified 183 aircraft that have apparently violated U.S. export controls. Tuesday’s action was the first time foreign-produced aircraft have been added to the watch list.

BIS said it has identified aircraft subject to export administration regulations flying from third countries to Russia and Belarus since April 8. In addition to U.S.-origin aircraft, foreign-made aircraft that exceed 25% U.S.-origin content are also subject to the export control regime.


Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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7 Comments

  1. Just curious,

    So you are telling me a free a sovereign county Iran can not fly its plan or a plan to any other country with our US permission?
    But US itself has no restrictions ? Hmm who is the bully.
    So you are telling me US never bombed a place on Earth, US never terrorized anywhere or any people on Earth.
    Blah blah to those who say well Iran did this and Iran did that, again this in context of who is the bully in this case controlling the media.
    Stop blaming Iran for everything and anything. The sky is blue “Its Iran Fault” my husband lost his job “its Iran Fault”

    1. You’re Right. The USCIS the only best an innocent government and country in the world with no crime against others, in exception of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons, genocide in Vietnam and north Korea, invading Iraq and killing it’s innocent people, invading Afghanistan and killing people and planting opium’s, and supporting dictator governments and kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, latter royal Iranian government and on top of them the children and elderly killer government of Israel.

      What an innocent government and country which the USA is!

    2. They can fly. They just cannot use US manufactured goods to plan, aid, and abet terrorist organizations. They also cannot use foreign aircraft manufactured with 25% US sourced content.

      Your suggestion Iran is a free sovereign country is in error. The country is run by a cadre of thugs intent on killing America and Israel,. I see no point in allowing them to use US hardware to that end.

    1. You’re Right. The USCIS the only best an innocent government and country in the world with no crime against others, in exception of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons, genocide in Vietnam and north Korea, invading Iraq and killing it’s innocent people, invading Afghanistan and killing people and planting opium’s, and supporting dictator governments and kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, latter royal Iranian government and on top of them the children and elderly killer government of occupiers.

      What an innocent government and country which the USA is!

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at ekulisch@freightwaves.com