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Russian charter jet racks up $20K in fines after entering Canadian airspace this week


A passenger, identified by Transport Canada as a ‘Russian National’ who chartered the aircraft, was fined $3,000 — the same penalty imposed on the aircraft’s two pilots

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The private jet detained at Yellowknife’s airport earlier this week racked up over $20,000 in fines for violating Canada’s ban on Russian-linked aircraft operating within the country’s airspace.

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On Friday, Transport Canada confirmed to the National Post the aircraft, a Dassault Falcon 900 registered in the Cayman Islands, did indeed violate the Feb. 27 NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) prohibiting aircraft owned, chartered, operated, or otherwise controlled by citizens, airlines or operators connected with Russia — a move meant to punish the nation’s illegal and devastating invasion of Ukraine.

A passenger, identified by Transport Canada as a “Russian national” who chartered the aircraft, was fined $3,000 — the same penalty imposed on the aircraft’s two pilots.

The owner of the aircraft, Dunard Engineering Ltd., was fined $15,000.

The aircraft has been released and is free to depart Yellowknife, provided it carry no passengers.

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The aircraft departed Yellowknife for Geneva shortly before 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

The aircraft landed just after noon local time Tuesday on runway 34 at Yellowknife airport, nine hours after departing Geneva International Airport.

By Wednesday, government officials confirmed the plane was grounded as officials investigated reports the plane carried a pair of Russian nationals.

Diane Archie, the territory’s minister of infrastructure, told the Northwest Territories legislature on Wednesday the aircraft was en route to the high arctic.

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“It appears that the plane and its passengers were on their way to Resolute, Nunavut with the intention of taking a planned Arctic overland expedition in a large all-terrain utility vehicle,” Archie said.

A statement from the Canadian Border Services Agency would only confirm officers attended the arrival of a private aircraft in Yellowknife on Tuesday and processed its occupants for entry into Canada — declining further comment under the Privacy Act.

The Yellowknife plane, at least on the surface, carries no overt links to Russia.

Public records suggest the aircraft, registered as VP-CVS, is operated by International Jet Management (IJM) GmbH, a private aircraft charter and servicing firm based in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

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IJM spokesperson Hayder Philipp told the National Post their association with VP-CVS ended over a year ago, and said he isn’t aware who the current operator is.

Active aircraft registers maintained by the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority lists VP-CVS’s owner as “Dunard Engineering Ltd.,” which according to data contained in the 2016 Panama Papers leak is a corporation registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Earlier reports suggest the aircraft was diverted or otherwise ordered to land in Yellowknife, but air traffic control recordings suggest the territory’s largest airport was its intended destination.

Questions about who was aboard the aircraft remain less clear.

Reports based on Minister Archie’s statement in the territorial legislature linked the aircraft’s occupants to the TransGlobal Car Expedition — aiming to complete a vertical pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the earth.

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The expedition’s website lists the journey’s first leg to kick off this September from the southern tip of Argentina, travelling north to Yellowknife.

The expedition’s second leg, described as a four-month trip from Yellowknife to Greenland’s capital city Nuuk via the North Pole, is scheduled to begin in Feb. 2023.

Among the expedition’s organizers are Edmonton-born rally car racer, stuntman and TV host Andrew Comrie-Picard, Russian adventurer and mountaineer Vasily Yelagin, and — most notably — Russian billionaire Vasily Shakhnovsky, a former top executive of now-defunct Yukos Oil Company.

Shakhnovsky was among a number of top Yukos executives arrested in 2003 in connection with a wide-ranging corruption investigation into the once-time oil-and-gas giant.

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Observers at the time blamed the arrests on a vendetta against the company’s former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky by Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly in retaliation for his public endorsement of opposition parties.

Shakhnovsky was convicted of tax evasion and reportedly dodged jail time after paying nearly $2-million in fines and unpaid taxes.

While the National Post has not confirmed Shakhnovsky was aboard the aircraft detained in Yellowknife, photos of the plane appear on the Transglobal Expedition website — including one of Shakhnovsky posing in front of the aircraft parked on an icy Antarctica airstrip.

• Email: bpassifiume@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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