US has sold more than 1m barrels of seized Iranian fuel

The US has sold more than 1m barrels of Iranian fuel that it seized under its sanctions programme last year, a US DOJ official has said

In a new approach last year the administration of former US President Trump used civil forfeiture procedures to seize 1.2m barrels of gasoline which the US claimed were being sent from Iran to Venezuela aboard four tankers.

The shipments were transferred to other vessels and sent to the US, where the fuel was meant to be sold and the proceeds distributed to a fund for U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism.

Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi told Reuters last week that the sale of the cargoes had been completed, adding that the government was “still working out the final expenses.”

“The petroleum has been seized, and an interlocutory sale has preserved the cash value of the petroleum, which is now held by the US Marshals Service” said Raimondi. The value of the gasoline was not known, but was likely worth tens of millions of dollars.

Raimondi said the department still needed the US District Court in Washington DC to enter an order of forfeiture. He said that after this the funds would be transferred to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

That fund was established by the U.S. government in 2015 to award compensation to individuals who had suffered harm as a result of an act of international terrorism by a state sponsor of terrorism.

Last week the US filed a lawsuit to seize a cargo of crude which it claimed came from Iran – rather than Iraq, as claimed on the bill of lading. That cargo was loaded onto Liberian-flagged tanker Achilleas. It was scheduled to arrive at the US Gulf of Mexico port of Galveston on February 15th.

New US President Joe Biden has taken a slightly softer line towards Iran than that of his predecessor, but he said that the US would not lift its economic sanctions on Iran in the hope of getting Iran back to the negotiating table.