DOJ Issues Warrant To Seize Two Abramovich Jets Over Russia Sanctions

International sanctions on citizens form the basis for the order

The Gulfstream G650 ER of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich taking off from Zurich Airport on a cloudy winter day in January of 2022. [File photo: Shutterstock]

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave for the Southern District of New York signed a warrant last week to approve the seizure of two aircraft that belong to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. The basis of the warrant stems from the international sanctions the U.S. and its allies have imposed on Russia and some of its citizens concerning the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

Per Judge Cave’s warrant that found cause for seizure and forfeiture, authorities will now attempt to seize a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and a Gulfstream G650ER owned and controlled by Abramovich. Together, the jets are estimated to be worth $400 million.

In a statement announcing the warrant, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said it demonstrates the Southern District’s commitment to enforcing the sanctions resulting from Russia’s illegal war actions.

“Our international partners—nations devoted to the rule of law—far outnumber those jurisdictions where these aircraft can safely hide. Our investigation of illegal exports violating U.S. law will continue unabated.”

Introducing Task Force KleptoCapture 

To seize the sanction items, the DOJ will rely on its Task Force KleptoCapture, established in March to enforce the sanctions against Russian oligarchs. At the time, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the interagency law enforcement task force would focus on implementing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States, allies, and partners have imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.

“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” Attorney General Garland said. The task force is staffed with prosecutors, agents, analysts, and professional staff across the department who are experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anti-corruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection. 

Moreover, Task Force KleptoCapture will complement the work of other international transatlantic task forces launched in the European Commission, among other places, with the mission of identifying and seizing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies around the world. 

Focus on Seizing the Jets

According to the DOJ, Abromavich’s 787 is now located in the United Arab Emirates, while the Gulfstream is in Russia. They are operated through a series of shell companies in Cyprus, the Bailiwick of Jersey, an island state off the coast of France, and the British Virgin Islands. Task Force director Michael Driscoll said the potential seizures represented one way the U.S. government hopes to hold Russia accountable. These recent warrants were just the beginning of others to come.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) also initiated proceedings against Abramovich in which it will seek penalties up to twice the value of the Boeing and the Gulfstream.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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