The Department of Justice is moving to seize two aircraft belonging to billionaire Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich, including his massive Boeing 787 Dreamliner, according to court documents.
A federal judge in Manhattan has signed the seizure order for the two jets, the 787 and a Gulfstream G650ER, the court filings show.
The Dreamliner is reported to be one of the most expensive private planes in the world. The Department of Commerce says it was delivered “green” or unfurnished from Boeing and was customized in Europe. It’s now valued at $350 million, according to the charging letter.
The seizure is part of “Operation KleptoCapture,” which is focused on the lawful seizure of Russian oligarchs’ assets in the wake of Russia’s assault on Ukraine. While Abramovich has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom, European Union and Canada, he has not been sanctioned by the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked President Joe Biden to refrain from sanctioning Abramovich because of the oligarch’s assistance in peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. NBC News has not independently confirmed the Journal’s reporting.
The Justice Department said it’s going after the jets now because Abramovich flouted Commerce Department restrictions from February on export controls on aviation-related items to Russia.
The Commerce Department and the FBI say Abramovich continued to use both planes after those restrictions were put in place, flying the Gulfstream multiple times in March, and taking the Dreamliner to Russia in March before taking it to Dubai, where it remains, court filings say. The Gulfstream is still in Russia.
The filing notes that while it was generally known Abramovich owns the planes, it took investigators time to prove it because they had to track a series of transactions through five shell companies and flight records.
The FBI says they relied on corporate documents and information from people who were in meetings with Abramovitch’s representatives for certain business transactions to be able to show that he was the ultimate owner.