Venezuela cargo jet

A Boeing 747 cargo jet that Iran sold to Venezuela's state airline Emtrasur cargo airline is pictured at the international airport in Cordoba, Argentina on June 6, 2022.

(Photo: Sebastian Borsero/AFP via Getty Images)

Venezuela Slams Argentina for 'Colluding' With US to Steal Cargo Jet Bought From Iran

The Venezuelan government called the U.S. seizure of the aircraft a "shameful rapacious operation" and "blatant theft."

Venezuela's government on Monday slammed Argentina for "colluding" with the U.S. to seize a cargo jet that an Iranian company allegedly sold to the Venezuelan state airline Emtrasur in 2021, a transaction that the U.S. claims violated export control laws and sanctions it has imposed on Tehran.

In a statement, the Venezuelan government called the U.S. confiscation of the jet a "shameful rapacious operation" and "blatant theft," adding that it would "take all actions to restore justice and achieve the restitution of the aircraft to its legitimate owner."

Nasser Kanaani, a spokesperson for Iran's foreign affairs ministry, denounced the seizure of the aircraft as "illegal" and pledged "decisive support for the legal and diplomatic efforts of Venezuela in order to regain ownership and access to the possessions and belongings of the country."

The statements from the allied governments came after the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that it took possession of the jet a year and a half after a Washington, D.C. court issued a seizure warrant for the aircraft, which was manufactured by the American company Boeing.

Argentine authorities "promptly enforced" the warrant, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

U.S. officials allege that the plane was sold to Venezuela's state-owned airline by Mahan Air, an Iranian company that has been subject to American sanctions since 2008. The U.S. sanctions regime in Iran, Venezuela, and other countries around the world has been widely criticized for doing far more harm to ordinary people than government leaders and other powerful figures.

Mahan Air, which the U.S. claims is "known to ferry weapons and fighters for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah," has denied any connection to the aircraft. Citing court documents, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday that the registered captain of the seized aircraft was formerly an IRGC commander.

Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said Monday that the "forfeiture of the Boeing 747 cargo plane culminates over 18 months of planning, coordination, and execution by the United States government and our Argentine counterparts."

"Bad actors—both near and far—are on alert that the United States will use all its tools to hold those who violate our laws to account," said Lapointe. "The successful seizure of the Boeing 747 underscores our commitment to prevent the illegal exportation of U.S. technologies and enforce U.S. export control laws."

The plane is currently in Florida's southern district, where it is being "prepared for disposition," the Justice Department said Monday.

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