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U.S. moves to seize aircraft linked to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich

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Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, pictured at a Moscow ceremony in 2006, was linked by U.S. officials to two private jets now being sought under sanctions leveled against Moscow. File photo by Anatoli Zhdanov/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/edf7bed3682b432a321b402e119f5560/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, pictured at a Moscow ceremony in 2006, was linked by U.S. officials to two private jets now being sought under sanctions leveled against Moscow. File photo by Anatoli Zhdanov/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to seize two private jets belonging to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Britain's Chelsea soccer club, court filings showed Monday.

U.S. officials received permission from a federal judge to seize a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and a Gulfstream G650ER aircraft believed to be owned and/or controlled by Abramovich through a series of shell companies, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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An affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Alan Fowler said the government had probable cause to believe the aircraft were eligible to be seized under the sanctions slapped on Russian oligarchs in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The agent detailed the relationships of four shell companies created in offshore jurisdictions and how they allegedly lead to Abramovich.

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Prosecutors alleged the planes were flown to Russia in March, violating the provisions of the Export Control Reform Act. The Dreamliner, which investigators say is worth $350 million, is currently in the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

In an accompanying document, the Commerce Department filed a charging letter laying out administrative charges against Abramovich under which he could be penalized for the value of the planes.

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Abramovich, who bought the Chelsea soccer club in 2003, is said by the British government to have financial ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, although he initially made his fortune in the 1990s under the privatization of Russia's oil industry directed by Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

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He was forced to sell the prestigious London soccer club to a consortium of California billionaires led by Mark Walter and Todd Boehly, owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Sparks, last month for $5.2 billion.

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