US urges Argentina to seize Iran-linked Venezuelan plane

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An American flag flies in front of the U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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BUENOS AIRES, Aug. 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday asked for permission to seize an Iranian plane that was sold to Venezuelan owners and seized in Argentina on suspicion that it is linked to international terrorist groups, said the agency in a statement.

The plane’s unannounced arrival in Argentina on June 8 sparked weeks of intrigue and concern in the Argentine government over its ties to Iran and Venezuela, as well as US-sanctioned companies. Continue reading

The seizure request followed the unsealing of a July 19 warrant for the seizure of the plane in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which alleged the plane could be seized because it violated export control laws, the DOJ said .

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The DOJ said the US-made Boeing 747-300 is subject to sanctions because its sale last year by Iran’s Mahan Air to Emtrasur, part of Venezuela’s Aerospace Industry and Air Services Consortium (Conviasa), violates US export laws. Both companies are sanctioned by the United States for alleged cooperation with terrorist organizations.

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

Mahan Air is being sanctioned for links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), a US-designated terrorist organization. The US sanctioned Conviasa in 2019 for its ties to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

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

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

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

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Reporting by Daniela Desantis and Walter Bianchi; writing by Carolina Pulice; Edited by Brendan O’Boyle and Christian Schmollinger

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