The US Justice Department on Monday ordered the seizure of two aircraft owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, saying they had been used in violation of sanctions on Russia imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.
The department said in court filings that the two aircraft, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and Gulfstream G650ER executive jet, had been flown into Russian territory in earlier this year in violation of US export controls set for US-made aircraft on March 2.
The move, announced by the Justice department’s New York division, took aim at one of the wealthiest Russian billionaires, who has already been forced to sell Chelsea Football Club in the wake of Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The move aims at “incentivizing people who are close to the Kremlin to distance themselves from the Kremlin and from the Russian state as it continues to ramp up the war,” said Andrew Adams, director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force.
Both aircraft, which the Justice Department valued at $400 million, are believed to be currently out of reach of US officials — in Russia and, for the Boeing, possibly in Dubai according to media reports.
“We will take active steps to pursue seizure, and we’ll keep an eye out to see if they move jurisdictions,” said Adams.
The seizure order outlined in detail how Abramovich controls the two aircraft through a series of shell companies.
In parallel with the order, the US Commerce department issued a letter officially charging Abramovich of knowingly violating US restrictions that seek to block specific technologies and goods from being exported to Russia.
The charges can bring significant financial penalties of up to double the value of the “export” transaction, the Commerce letter said, suggesting that they could seek more than the value of the aircraft in fines.
“Commerce’s export and re-export controls are robust and they must be respected. They’re a critical component of the US strategy to deprive Russia of the means of fully fueling its illegal war,” said Adams.