The US Department of Justice on Monday ordered the seizure of two planes belonging to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, saying they had been used in violation of sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
The department said in court documents that the two planes, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and a Gulfstream G650ER business jet, were flown into Russian territory earlier this year in violation of US export controls established for aircraft manufactured in the United States on March 2.
The department’s decision targets one of Russia’s richest billionaires, who was already forced to sell Chelsea football club following Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
It aims to urge people close to the Russian government “to distance themselves from the Kremlin and the Russian state as it continues to escalate the war,” said Andrew Adams, director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force. .
The two planes, which the Justice Department has valued at $400 million, would be beyond the reach of US officials – in Russia and, for the Boeing, possibly in Dubai, according to media reports.
“We will take active steps to pursue the seizure, and we will keep an eye out to see if they change jurisdictions,” Adams said.
The seizure order described how Abramovich controlled the two planes through a series of shell companies, centered on the Cyprus-registered Europe Settlement Trust.
Abramovich in February made his children, all Russian citizens, beneficiaries of the trust, in accordance with the order.
Not sanctioned by the United States
Abramovich, 55, has built a fortune estimated by Bloomberg at $12.5 billion on oil, steel, aluminum and other industries, maintaining close relationships with senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Cheese fries.
A holder of Russian and Israeli citizenship, as well as a Portuguese, he is believed to have moved much of his wealth out of Russia, but retains substantial interests inside the country.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, he has been hit with sanctions in Europe.
The island of Jersey, a British Crown dependency, announced on April 13 that it had frozen more than $7 billion in assets believed to be linked to Abramovich.
But unlike many other Russian tycoons, Abramovich has not been placed on US sanctions lists.
According to reports, he avoided seizures by European authorities of his 162-meter (500-foot) yacht Eclipse and the 140-meter Solaris by moving them to Turkish waters.
Along with the aircraft seizure order, the US Department of Commerce issued a letter accusing Abramovich of knowingly violating US restrictions aimed at preventing the export of specific technologies and goods to Russia.
The charges can result in financial penalties of up to double the value of the “export” transaction, the Commerce letter says, suggesting they could seek more than the value of the plane in fines.