The United States obtains authorization to seize the planes of the Russian oligarch


NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) – A U.S. court on Monday issued arrest warrants for the seizure of two luxury jets belonging to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich under U.S. measures imposed after the United States invaded Ukraine. Russia, according to court records.

But the likelihood of the US government taking control of the nearly $400 million plane was uncertain.

A Justice Department official said the $350 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner and $60 million Gulfstream G650 ER were not owned by the United States, and the official declined to say whether the government American knew their location.

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A federal judge in Manhattan issued the warrants on the grounds that the recent flights violated US export controls imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The U.S. Department of Commerce has filed related administrative charges against Abramovich.

But the official said the warrants are likely to deter companies from helping move the plane. US authorities are seeking to pressure business leaders close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt what the Kremlin calls his “special military operation” in Ukraine.

A spokesperson for Abramovich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Abramovich denied having close ties to Putin.

The Commerce Department said the Gulfstream flew from Istanbul to Moscow on March 12, departed the next day for Tel Aviv and flew again from Istanbul to Moscow on March 15. The Boeing flew from Dubai to Moscow on March 4, the department said.

Because the planes were made in the United States and the flights took place after export restrictions took effect, Abramovich, a Russian national, would have needed a Commerce license to fly them in Russia. No license was requested, but an administration official told reporters that it was ministry policy to deny such requests.

The department may seek to fine Abramovich up to $328,121 per unlicensed flight, or nearly $1 million for all three flights, among other penalties.

“Russian oligarchs such as Abramovich will not be allowed to harmlessly violate US export regulations,” Commerce Chief John Sonderman said in a statement.

In March, the trade moved to effectively ground Abramovich’s Gulfstream, along with 99 other planes it said had recently visited Russia, for allegedly violating export controls. Read more

Abramovich owns the two planes through a series of front companies registered in Cyprus, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands, prosecutors said. In February, he rearranged the ownership structure to make his children the beneficiaries of a trust that ultimately owns both planes.

But he continued to own and effectively control the planes when they flew to Moscow the following month, according to the Commerce Department.

Abramovich, who helped mediate talks between Moscow and Kyiv early in the war, was not personally sanctioned by the United States. It has been sanctioned by the European Union and Britain. Read more

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Reporting by Luc Cohen and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Tomasz Janowski and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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