US authorities have retrieved an Emtrasur Boeing 747-300M freighter which had been impounded in Argentina nearly two years ago, over allegations that it had been engaged in conduct prohibited by sanctions.

The US Department of Justice says it has “completed enforcement” of an order for forfeiture of the 747 which was previously in service with Iranian carrier Mahan Air – an airline associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

US authorities alleged that the transfer of the jet from Mahan Air to Venezuelan operator Emtrasur, a subsidiary of state carrier Conviasa, violated US export control laws. The aircraft has also allegedly been flown between Venezuela, Iran and Russia without US government authorisation.

As a result of a court-issued seizure warrant in July 2022 the aircraft was impounded by Argentinean officials.

After some 18 months of work, the Argentinean government finally transferred custody of the 747 to US authorities on 11 February, following a final order of forfeiture in May last year.

It took off from Buenos Aires on 12 February and arrived at south Florida’s Dade-Collier Training and Transition airport.

Emtrasur 747-300M-c-Venezuelan transport ministry

Source: Venezuelan transport ministry

Emtrasur obtained the aircraft from Iranian operator Mahan Air

“Transfer of this [aircraft] to US custody is the final step in the long process to bring this case to its rightful conclusion,” said FBI national security branch executive assistant director Larissa Knapp.

US attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe says the successful seizure “underscores our commitment to prevent the illegal exportation of US technologies”.

The Department of Justice says the 747 – bearing the Venezuelan registration YV3531 – will be prepared for disposition following its arrival.

Venezuela’s government has condemned the “blatant theft” of the 747, through the “collusion” between the US and Argentinean governments, accusing them of violating “all the regulations that regulate civil aeronautics”.