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.