According to court documents that were recently made public, the United States Department of Justice is moving to seize two of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s private jets estimated to have a combined value of more than $400 million. It includes a Gulfstream G650ER and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is believed to be the most expensive private aircraft in the world. On Monday, a federal judge in New York signed a warrant authorizing the seizure of the jets for violating US export and sanctions laws. The US actions are a part of “Operation KleptoCapture,” which was established in March 2022 to enforce sanctions on Russian oligarchs in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry also initiated administrative proceedings against Abramovich. If found liable, the Russian billionaire might be subjected to penalties of up to twice the value of the aircraft. Although Abramovich has not been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, a Justice Department official said the warrant shows that “no one is above the law and not being on OFAC’s list doesn’t give you a license to evade sanctions or export controls.”
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit to support the seizure warrant, the American-made aircraft were flown into and out of Russia without obtaining licenses from the US Commerce Department, which directly violates US export restrictions imposed after Russia attacked Ukraine. The restrictions prohibit the export, re-export, or in-country transfer of US-made aircraft and aircraft parts and components to or within Russia without a BIS license.
The documents filed in US District Court in Manhattan state that Abramovich continued to use both aircraft after the restrictions were announced. According to the filing notes, the Gulfstream flew multiple times since March and is presently in Russia. The Dreamliner also made a trip to Russia before arriving in Dubai, where it remains.
While seizure warrants are rarely made public, CNN reports while citing a Justice Department official that “the filing was public to reveal the names of shell companies the US believes were used to shield the actual ownership.” Reportedly, Abramovich owned the two jets through a series of shell companies in Cyprus, Jersey, and the British Virgin Islands. The Gulfstream G650ER owned by the Russian billionaire might be safe despite a warrant being issued for its seizure as it is in Russia.
However, Abramovich’s Dreamliner might be in trouble, despite the fact that it is in the UAE, which has turned into one of the preferred safe havens for sanctioned Russians. “These seizures are, are going to continue apace, and people recognize that where the seizures are happening around the world are in pockets of the world that might not have been expected,” said Andrew Adams, the head of the US’ KleptoCapture task force, while speaking to CNN. “There are no safe havens.” Even if it’s not seized anytime soon, the Dreamliner has been practically grounded indefinitely at the Dubai airport thanks to the actions taken by the US authorities. It will be interesting to see what happens next. To read more about Abramovich’s jets and other toys worth billions of dollars, click here.