US seeks to seize Iran oil cargoes bound for Venezuela

A worker of the state-oil company Pdvsa holds an Iranian flag during the arrival of the Iranian tanker "Fortune" at El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela in May 2020..
A worker of the state-oil company Pdvsa holds an Iranian flag during the arrival of the Iranian tanker "Fortune" at El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela in May 2020.. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Justice Department issued a warrant on Thursday (July 2) to seize the cargoes of four tankers carrying Iranian oil to Venezuela, tying the shipments to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which Washington calls a terror group.

The Justice Department filed a forfeiture complaint and warrant in federal court in Washington for the cargoes of the tankers Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna - currently en route from Iran to Venezuela.

The US alleges that the shipments involve parties affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the United States has designated a "foreign terrorist organisation."

A court complaint citing a "confidential source" said Mahmoud Madanipour, who has ties to the IRGC, arranged the shipments for Venezuela, using offshore front companies and ship-to-ship transfers to avoid sanctions on Iran.

"Profits from petroleum sales support the IRGC's full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad," the Justice Department said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear how the US government intended to seize the cargoes.