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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sistema Jet Grounded In U.S.

A $16 million executive jet ordered by Vladimir Yevtushenkov's Sistema Group was forced to land at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport by U.S. authorities last week after a dispute over its ownership, a company spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

U.S. television network NBC reported Monday that U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the carrier as it headed to Russia via Canada after the supplier filed a claim that it had been stolen.

A Sistema spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, denied these accusations. "We did not breach any agreements. We were not running off with the airplane. It was flying out of the country with all the necessary permission," she said. "This is simply a disagreement between two companies."

Uncertain as to the nature of the alarm, border control officers, customs agents and an FBI anti-terrorism unit swamped the aircraft just after touchdown. It was soon determined that the matter was a contract dispute.

"There is no criminal or terrorism nexus here," FBI agent Monica Shipley told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday.

The two-year long dispute between Sistema and a company based in Delaware centers on claims that the U.S. firm failed to make alterations worth $2 million to the 139-seater McDonnell-Douglas MD-87 plane. Sistema accordingly resolved to withhold payment of that amount.

Among the changes demanded were the addition of extra fuel tanks designed to allow the aircraft to fly long distances, the spokeswoman said. But she could not confirm U.S. media reports that the company had also ordered the installation of a karaoke machine. The company had already placed a $2 million deposit for the disputed payment with a U.S. court and was taking the plane to Russia in an attempt to close a chapter of the dispute, the spokeswoman said.

A Delaware court was set to hold a hearing Wednesday in a bid to resolve the disagreement, Sistema's spokeswoman said, adding that the company's lawyers were confident of success.