Venezuela’s government has reacted angrily to an Argentinean judicial decision to order the transfer of an impounded combi Boeing 747-300M to US authorities.

The Venezuelan state describes the decision over the aircraft – operated by Empresa de Transporte Aereocargo del Sur, or Emtrasur – as attempted theft, and “clearly servile to imperial interests”.

Its ire has been sparked by an Argentinean judge’s apparent decision acceding to a US government request for the aircraft, which was the subject of a District of Columbia court seizure warrant in July 2022.

The US government issued a temporary order a month later denying the export privileges of Emtrasur, which it said was a subsidiary of Venezuelan airline Conviasa – a state-owned carrier which had earlier been sanctioned by the US Treasury.

This denial was based on evidence that Emtrasur was engaging in conduct prohibited by an order against Iranian carrier Mahan Air after Emtrasur – through Conviasa – obtained the 747-300M.

Emtrasur 747-300M-c-Venezuelan transport ministry

Source: Venezuelan transport ministry

Argentinean authorities impounded the 747-300M in 2022

The jet, powered by General Electric CF6 engines, was originally delivered to French operator UTA in 1986 and subsequently operated by Air France before Mahan Air acquired it around 2008.

Emtrasur had used the aircraft for services between Venezuela, Iran and Russia, in violation of export restrictions, the US government claimed.

Argentinean authorities detained the 747 around 8 June 2022 following a US export enforcement request, and the aircraft has remained there since.

The crew of the jet included five Iranian nationals, the US government stated at the time of its August 2022 export denial order, and its captain identified as a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander. Documentation also detailed the aircraft’s activity after its transfer to Emtrasur.

The government adds that its investigations into the aircraft’s circumstances has uncovered evidence that spare parts on the jet bear Mahan Air or Conviasa markings, underlining the breach of restrictions against Mahan Air.

While it claims that Venezuelan parties have taken “affirmative actions” to secure the 747’s release from Argentina, the aircraft remains in detention, and the US government issued a final order of forteiture in May last year.

Venezuela’s government says agreement to US seizure of the aircraft is “illegal” and that Argentina, as a result, “submits to the powers of US imperialism” and “flagrantly violates” a number of international treaties, including the Chicago Convention.

It adds that Venezuela has demonstrated “legal and legitimate possession” of the 747, insisting it is “dedicated to the transportation service of essential supplies in our region”, and warns countries – particularly in Latin America – that it will interpret overflight permission for the aircraft as a “hostile act”.