On Monday, the Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS) Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) announced the issuance of an administrative charging letter against Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich for the unlicensed export of two U.S.-origin aircraft from Russia without a license. The charging letter targets two aircraft owned by Abramovich: a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner registered as P4-BDL and a Gulfstream G650ER registered as LX-RAY. Both aircraft are authorized to be seized by the U.S. Government pursuant to a seizure warrant from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“Russian oligarchs such as Abramovich will not be permitted to violate U.S. export regulations without consequence,” said OEE Director John Sonderman. “Those that violate the expansive export controls imposed on Russia will ultimately find themselves the target of investigations by OEE Special Agents and our law enforcement partners. Today, we are bringing a whole of government effort directed against Abramovich and his aircraft with two coordinated enforcement actions: OEE’s charging letter and the U.S. Department of Justice seizure warrants.”
Abramovich, perhaps best known as the former owner of the Chelsea Football Club, purchased the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in March 2018. Built initially for Swiss luxury carrier PrivatAir, the airframe never made a flight before the company became insolvent in 2018. Currently, only three of the approximately 250 Boeing 787s available are in private hands: one is available for charter through a service called “Dream Jet,” and a former Mexican government VIP jet is currently available for purchase if you are in the market. After undergoing a reported $100 million interior overhaul, Abramovich took delivery of the aircraft in December 2021. The Dreamliner was intended to replace a Boeing 767, nicknamed “The Bandit.”
According to publicly available flight data, the Dreamliner flew from Moscow to Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai on March 4, 2022. However, with the addition of the plane to the Entity List, it cannot leave Dubai as any service or fueling of the aircraft without a license from BIS would subject those service providers to BIS sanctions. According to an earlier BIS press release, “by preventing these aircraft from receiving any service, including from abroad, international flights from Belarus or Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded.”
The announcement is noteworthy for another reason: it marks the first time BIS has made a charging letter public when filed, rather than after a settlement as past precedent held. “In publicly announcing this Charging Letter, BIS is ensuring that the exporting community and public writ large know who is allegedly violating our regulations. It also incentivizes those who may be in violation to cease and voluntarily self-disclose such violations,” BIS noted in the press release.