September 1, 2022

DOJ obtains seizure warrant for aircraft owned by Russia-based gas and oil corporation

On August 31, 2022, the US Department of Justice announced that it obtained a warrant to seize an aircraft owned by PJSC Lukoil, a Russia-based multinational oil and gas corporation, for allegedly traveling in and out of Russia in violation of sanctions imposed by the US Department of  Commerce in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  According to the affidavit in support of the seizure warrant (the Affidavit), Lukoil has also been subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control since September 2014 and violated US sanctions when it flew into Houston, Texas in March 2019 carrying several Lukoil officials, including Russian oligarch Vagit Alekperov who was Lukoil’s president and CEO at the time.  The DOJ reports that the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure of the aircraft after finding probable cause that the Boeing 737-7EM, worth approximately $45 million, was subject to seizure for violating US federal laws.

According to the Affidavit, flight records reflect that the aircraft flew from Russia to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 8, 2022 after Russia sanctions went into effect on February 24 and March 2, 2022.  The aircraft then allegedly flew from UAE to Moscow, Russia on March 12, 2022, once again in violation of Russia sanctions and in violation of the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA) and regulations, orders, and licenses issued thereunder.  According to the Affidavit, the aircraft was subject to Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and required a license or license exception from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in order to be exported or reexported to Russia, and the BIS confirmed that it never received an application for a license, never issued such a license, and indicated that no license exception was available.

The DOJ reports that the seizure warrant was obtained with the help of the Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency group formed in the US in March of 2022 and dedicated to the enforcement of sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures imposed by the US and its allies and partners in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.

The Boeing aircraft is believed to be located in Russia since it was reexported from the UAE on March 12, 2022.

DOJ Press Release | Affidavit in support of seizure warrant