US Obtains Warrant to Seize Russian Energy Company’s Jet
HOUSTON — The United States has obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7EM aircraft owned by PJSC LUKOIL, a Russian multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Moscow, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.
According to court documents, the Boeing last entered the U.S. in March 2019 when the plane flew from overseas to Houston, Texas, with LUKOIL officials, including a Russian oligarch — then LUKOIL president and CEO Vagit Alekperov — on board the aircraft.
The aircraft is now believed to be in Russia and worth approximately $45 million.
LUKOIL has been subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control since September 2014.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Commerce Department handed down additional sanctions against Russia and Russian entities in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions impose export controls and license requirements to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.
The sanctions also expanded prohibitions on the export, re-export or in-country transfer of, among other things, U.S.-manufactured aircraft to or within Russia without a valid license or license exception.
On Thursday, a federal judge presiding in the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure, finding probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of federal law.
“LUKOIL owns the Boeing aircraft — bearing the tail number VP-CLR and the manufacturer serial number 34865 — which flew into and out of Russia in violation of the Department of Commerce’s sanctions against Russia,” the Justice Department said in a press release.
The seizure action is being coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls and economic countermeasures imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.
The FBI’s Houston Field Office, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Houston are investigating the seizure matter.