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SEPTEMBER 2020

United States Confirmed ‘Largest-Ever’ Seizure Of Iranian Fuel On 4 Ships Bound For Venezuela

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United States Confirmed ‘Largest-Ever' Seizure Of Iranian Fuel On 4 Ships Bound For Venezuela

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US forces have seized some 1.116m barrels of Iranian fuel aboard 4 ships headed for Venezuela, the US Department of Justice said on August 14. In the statement, the DOJ hinted at “assistance” from “foreign partners” and declining to reveal where the grab took place.

“The Justice Department today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, that was bound for Venezuela.  These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran. 

On July 2, 2020, the United States filed a complaint seeking to forfeit all petroleum-product cargo aboard four foreign-flagged oil tankers, including the M/T Bella with international maritime organization (IMO) number 9208124, the M/T Bering with IMO number 9149225, the M/T Pandi with IMO number 9105073, and the M/T Luna with IMO number 9208100 (all pictured below).  A seizure order for the cargo from all four vessels was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The government announced today that it has successfully executed the seizure order and confiscated the cargo from all four vessels, totaling approximately 1.116 million barrels of petroleum.  With the assistance of foreign partners, this seized property is now in U.S. custody.   

After enforcement of the U.S. forfeiture order, Iran’s navy forcibly boarded an unrelated ship in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petroleum, but was unsuccessful.  U.S. Central Command published a video of the failed Iranian operation yesterday.  See https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1293678243552395264

Funds successfully forfeited with a connection to a state sponsor of terrorism may in whole or in part be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (http://www.usvsst.com/) after the conclusion of the case.

A warrant for arrest and civil forfeiture complaint are merely allegations.  The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government. 

HSI’s Colorado Springs and FBI’s Minneapolis field office are investigating the case. The case is being handled by the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistant U.S Attorneys Zia M. Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen, and National Security Division Trial Attorney David Lim are litigating the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialists Elizabeth Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick,” the DOJ said.

The statement confirmed an earlier Wall Street Journal report, citing anonymous government and shipping sources, that claimed four tankers loaded with Iranian fuel had recently seen their cargo confiscated “without the use of military force.” The vessels were reportedly re-routed to Houston, Texas, where they will allegedly be met by senior Trump administration officials.

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