The Justice Department plans to seize two planes owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, including his massive Boeing 787 Dreamliner, court documents show.
A federal judge in Manhattan signed the seizure warrant for the two jets, the 787 and a Gulfstream G650ER. on Monday the court documents show.
The Dreamliner is considered one of the most expensive private aircraft in the world. The Department of Commerce says it was delivered “green,” or unfurnished, by Boeing and customized in Europe. It is now valued at $350 million, according to the indictment letter.
The seizure is part of “Operation KleptoCapture,” which focuses on the lawful seizure of Russian oligarchs’ assets following the Russian attack on Ukraine. While Abramovich was sanctioned by Britain, the European Union and Canada, he was not sanctioned by the US. The Wall Street Journal reported that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked President Joe Biden not to impose sanctions on Abramovich for supporting the oligarch in Ukraine-Russia peace talks. NBC News has not independently verified The Journal’s coverage.
The Justice Department said it is now taking action against the jets because Abramovich flouted the Commerce Department’s February restrictions on export controls of aviation-related items to Russia.
A senior Justice Department official told NBC News on Monday that the government was trying to confiscate the plane as part of its work “to encourage those closest to the Kremlin to distance themselves from the Kremlin and the Russian state during this further fueling the war.”
The Commerce Department and FBI say Abramovich continued to use both planes after the restrictions were put in place. He flew on the Gulfstream several times in March and took the Dreamliner to Russia in March before taking it to Dubai, where it remains, court documents say. The Gulfstream is still in Russia.
The filing notes that although it was well known that Abramovich owned the planes, it took investigators time to prove it because they had to trace a series of transactions across five shell companies and flight records.
The FBI says it relied on company documents and information from people who met with Abramovich’s representatives on certain business transactions to establish that he was the ultimate owner.
The Justice Department official, who spoke to NBC News, said “information provided by private sector actors, information provided by foreign counterparts around the world has been a resounding success” for the KleptoCapture task force.