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US Department of Justice Seizes A Set of Boeing 737 Landing Gear Which Was Going to Be Sent to Russia in Breach of Western Sanctions

US Department of Justice Seizes A Set of Boeing 737 Landing Gear Which Was Going to Be Sent to Russia in Breach of Western Sanctions

a plane on the runway

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) says it has filed a forfeiture complaint against a set of Boeing 737-800 landing gear which was seized by Customs and Border Protection at the Miami Airport in September 2023 because it’s believed the landing gear was destined for a Russian airline.

Following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many countries imposed strict sanctions on Russia, which included a ban on the import of Western aircraft parts.

Many experts wondered how long Russia’s airline industry could continue effectively and safely operating, but for more than two years, most Russian airlines have continued to fly in defiance of Western sanctions despite the fact they mainly use Western-built aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.

The case filed by the DOJ centers on a shipping company based in Kyrgyzstan, which is accused of trying to get the landing gear into Russia in violation of US sanctions imposed on the Putin regime.

Court documents allege that the landing gear was initially sold by a Florida-based aircraft parts overhauler and reseller to the tune of $1.55 million to an intermediary based in Istanbul. From there, it is alleged that the landing gear would have been passed through Kyrgyzstan and eventually made its way into Russia.

Several months before the purchase went through, senior U.S. officials had reportedly warned Turkey that it would face ‘repercussions’ if it were found to be breaking Western sanctions by sending spare aircraft parts to Russia.

“This Office continues to use every tool it has to stop illegal transactions with Russian businesses,” commented US Attorney Matthew Graves on Wednesday.

“Today’s complaint stops an attempted illegal transfer to the Russian Federation of parts for airplanes and seeks to permanently deprive both the Russian Federation and the company that tried to sell them of these goods,” Graves continued.

Prosecutors allege that the shipment of the 737 landing gear was originally organized by a company that was established just one month after Russia invaded Ukraine.

U.S. officials, however, caught on to what this company was doing and in July 2023, the company was pinpointed as a Specially Designated National – effectively blocking all of its property and interests in the United States.

To try to get around the SDN, the company quickly asked the seller of the landing gear to switch the purchase to another company, and mentions of the original buyer were ‘scrubbed’ from invoices and other documentation.

On September 1, just as the landing gear was about to be shipped, CBP swooped in and seized the shipment at Miami International Airport.

In addition to trying to get spare parts shipped into Russia, airlines in the country have also been trying other inventive methods to skirt Western sanctions. Russian flag carrier Aeroflot reportedly sent its Airbus A330 aircraft to Iran for maintenance, given the fact that the Iranian regime has experience in dealing with Western sanctions on aircraft spare parts.

Western sanctions are so severe that nations that have maintained diplomatic ties with Russia and continue flying to the country would face serious issues if one of their aircraft had a serious maintenance issue in Russia.

Last month, an Emirates Airbus A380 was damaged when it was hit by an airport service vehicle at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, leading to some serious damage to the underbelly of the superjumbo.

On this occasion, Emirates managed to fly the aircraft back to Dubai without any passengers onboard where it could be fixed at the airline’s own maintenance facility. If this flight hadn’t been possible, however, the aircraft could have been stranded in Moscow for months or even years.

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