The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday that it has asked the government in Buenos Aires for permission to seize an Iranian plane that was sold to new owners in Venezuela but is being held in Argentina on suspicion of being linked to international terrorist groups.
The unannounced arrival of the plane in Argentina on 8 June raised concerns within the Argentinian government about its relations with Iran, Venezuela and companies that the US has imposed sanctions on. The Justice Department said that the seizure request followed the disclosure of a warrant in the District Court for the District of Columbia dated 19 July to take the aircraft for violating export control laws.
According to the department, the US-made Boeing 747-300 is under sanctions because Iran's Mahan Air sale to Emtrasur last year violated US export laws. Both companies are subject to US sanctions over their alleged cooperation with terrorist organisations.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division said that, "The department will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws." Mahan Air faces sanctions for its ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, which the US has listed as a terrorist organisation.
There were 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians travelling on the aircraft when it landed in Buenos Aires. Seven of the passengers are still being held by the Argentinian authorities.