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US says it took possession of Boeing 747 that Iran sold to Venezuelan company

The U.S. government says it has seized a Boeing 747 cargo plane that authorities say was sold by a sanctioned Iranian airline to a Venezuelan state-owned company in violation of U.S. export control laws.

The Justice Department said Monday that the American-built plane had arrived in Florida and would be destroyed.

The plane had previously been transferred from Iranian airline Mahan Air – which authorities say provides support to the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – to Emtrasur, a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary of a state-owned company that had previously been sanctioned by the United States. Officials said the sale, made without U.S. government authorization, violated export control laws and also improperly benefited Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards.

Mahan Air has been subject to US government sanctions for years.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the full force of U.S. laws deprives hostile state actors of the means to engage in malicious activities that threaten our national security,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the ministry’s national security division. A declaration.

The ministry said the plane would now be “ready for disposal”, but gave no further details.

The Venezuelan government on Monday called the transfer a “shameful and rapacious operation” and pledged to “take all necessary measures to restore justice and obtain the return of the plane to its rightful owner.” His statement did not provide details on next steps.

President Nicolas Maduro’s administration also accused the U.S. and Argentine governments of “collusion” and violation of civil aviation regulations “as well as commercial, civil and political rights” of Emtrasur.

The plane was grounded in June 2022 by Argentine law enforcement, and U.S. authorities moved several weeks later to take possession of it. Argentina officially transferred custody of the plane to the United States on Sunday, officials said.

The Justice Department identified the plane’s registered captain as a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards. Officials also cited a allegedly recovered flight log that shows additional flights after the transfer to Emtrasur to destinations including Moscow, Caracas and Tehran — all without U.S. government approval.

Mahan Air has denied any links to the plane and Venezuela has asked Argentine authorities to release the plane.

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Associated Press writer Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas contributed to this report.

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