US seizes Iran oil shipments destined for Venezuela

The US has seized four Iranian fuel shipments en route to Venezuela and confiscated the cargoes, the Justice Department said on Friday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2020

US seizes Iran oil shipments destined for Venezuela

  • The Trump administration is seeking to force Maduro to resign

CHICAGO: The US confiscated more than 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum from four foreign oil tankers destined for Venezuela, Justice Department officials said.

The oil was being shipped by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, to the government of beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The Trump administration is seeking to force Maduro to resign. He was indicted in March on charges he engaged in a decades-long narco-terrorism and international cocaine trafficking conspiracy. Prosecutors said he led a violent drug cartel before becoming president.

US officials said the raid on the Iranian oil shipment had been authorized in a federal complaint filed on July 2, seeking to forfeit all petroleum-product cargo carried by four foreign-flagged oil tankers.

The seizure order for the cargo from all four vessels was issued by US District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg following charges filed by the Justice Department. The confiscated cargo is estimated to be valued at nearly $50 million.

Justice Department officials said Iran responded by seeking to recover the oil, unsuccessfully raiding several ships.

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 once the case is concluded, officials said. A trial date has not yet been set.


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.