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U.S. gets warrant to seize $45 million airplane owned by Russian energy firm Lukoil

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States obtained a warrant to seize a $45 million aircraft owned by Russian energy firm PJSC Lukoil, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday, though the aircraft is currently believed to be in Russia.

"The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure," the department said in a statement. The aircraft flew into and out of Russia in violation of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s sanctions against Russia, the Justice Department added. The Boeing 737-7EM aircraft last flew into the United States in March 2019, the Justice Department added.

Since 2014, Lukoil has been subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The United States has also recently imposed export controls and license requirements sanctions on Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine "a special military operation."

"The aircraft at the center of today's affidavit was ultimately the property of Lukoil, though that ownership was obscured through a now-public series of holding companies," the Justice Department said in a statement.

"With today's unsealed affidavit, aviation, insurance, and financial services companies are made aware of that nesting doll-structure, and can proactively avoid the provision of services that might aid the movement of this tainted aircraft as the United States pursues its seizure."

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Josie Kao)