Sanctions Evasion and Money Laundering Charges Unsealed Against Specially Designated Global Terrorist Mohammad Bazzi and Talal Chahine
The United States of America obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7JU aircraft owned by PJSC Rosneft Oil Company (Rosneft), a Russian integrated energy company headquartered in Moscow, Russia headed by Igor Ivanovich Sechin. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York authorized the seizure, finding probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) and the recent sanctions issued against Russia.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Task Force KleptoCapture Director Andrew C. Adams, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Jonathan Carson, Special Agent-in-Charge, US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office (BIS), announced the unsealing of the seizure warrant.
“Today’s enforcement action demonstrates there is a price to pay for Russian companies and oligarchs that flagrantly evade sanctions that the United States has imposed in response to the unjustified war against the people of the Ukraine,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will relentlessly pursue the proceeds of unlawful conduct, be it on land, in the air, or at sea.”
Mr. Peace thanked the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for their assistance in the investigation.
“By violating Commerce Department export controls, Rosneft has converted its jet into contraband. Today’s unsealing provides a roadmap to those in the private sector and to our foreign partners who are committed to upholding the rule of law – and to stifling the Russian state’s efforts to wage an illegal war – who will refuse to provide refuge and support to the operators of this aircraft as the United States pursues its seizure and forfeiture in aid of Ukraine,” said Task Force KleptoCapture Director Adams.
“Our enforcement action today makes clear that the U.S. Government will not tolerate Russian companies and oligarchs evading BIS export controls in order to support Russia’s war effort,” stated BIS Special Agent-in-Charge Carson. “BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement, working with our Kleptocapture partners, will continue to aggressively investigate export violations and bring violators to justice.”
According to the seizure warrant and affidavit unsealed today:
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued sanctions against Russia. The sanctions impose export controls and license requirements to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. The Russia sanctions expanded prohibitions on the export, reexport or in-country transfer of, among other things, U.S.-manufactured aircraft to or within Russia without a valid license or license exception for aircraft owned or controlled, or under charter or lease, by Russia and/or Russian nationals. In this case, these sanctions bar a plane that was built or manufactured in the United States from entering Russia without a valid license.
Since February 2022, when the Russia sanctions went into effect, the plane has left and reentered Russia at least seven times, in violation of federal law. The Boeing jet, which was manufactured in the United States, was last in the United States in March 2014, and is currently believed to be in, or traveling to or from, Russia.
Rosneft—which is headed by sanctioned oligarch Igor Ivanovich Sechin—owns the Boeing aircraft. The Boeing was flown from a foreign country to Russia in violation of the ECRA and regulations issued thereunder, including the Russia sanctions. The Boeing (pictured below) is believed to be valued at over $25 million.
The government’s case is being investigated by the Eastern District of New York’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section and the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Francisco J. Navarro, Tara B. McGrath and Madeline M. O’Connor are investigating the case in partnership with Trial Attorney Barbara Levy.
The seizure action is being coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. Announced by the Attorney General on March 2, 2022, and run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the task force will continue to leverage all the department’s tools and authorities to combat efforts to evade or undermine the collective actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-MJ-174
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office