August 10, 2022

US permitted to seize Airbus owned by Russian oligarch

On August 8, 2022, the US obtained a warrant authorizing the seizure of an Airbus A319-100 owned and controlled by Russian oligarch Andrei Skoch.  The airplane has an estimated value of more than $90 million.  The US Department of Justice reports that the seizure warrant was issued by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after finding probable cause that the airplane was associated with a violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and, therefore, subject seizure and forfeiture.

According to the seizure warrant and affidavit, Andrei Skoch has been a member of Russia’s State Duma since approximately 1999 and is currently a Deputy of the Duma.  He was first designated by OFAC in 2018 under the Russia/Crimea Sanctions pursuant to EO 13661, EO 13662 and EO 13582.  After Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, OFAC issued additional sanctions against Skoch and his assets on March 24, 2022 pursuant to EO 14024 for being a member of the Duma who supported Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and on June 2, 2022 pursuant to EO 14024, EO 13685 and EO 13661 when the Office of Foreign Assets Control identified the Airbus as blocked property in which Skoch had an interest.  Investigators determined that Skoch was the beneficial owner of the Airbus through a series of shell companies tied to Skoch’s romantic partner and based on documents provided by the partner’s representative to Aruban authorities, flight records, and documents related to the sale, operation and registration of the airplane.

The affidavit in support of the seizure warrant also states that the US Treasury designated Skoch after the department uncovered US dollar payments in 2018 that were sent through US financial institutions in connection with the Airbus’s registration in Aruba and certain aviation insurance premiums – payments that were allegedly made without first obtaining a license from OFAC and in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

The Justice Department has credited its Task Force KleptoCapture with the seizure.  Task Force KleptoCapture is an interagency task force announced by US Attorney General Merrick Garland on March 2, 2022 dedicated to the enforcement of sanctions, export controls and other economic countermeasure imposed by the US, its allies and partners in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

DOJ Press Release | Affidavit in support of seizure warrant