21:44 GMT24 February 2021
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    Washington started ordering the forfeiture of certain tankers' cargo, claiming it belonged to Iran and was eligible for confiscation under the sanctions introduced by the US in 2018. Tehran, however, denied being the owner of the fuel seized from a total of four tankers.

    The US has finished selling the 1.2 million barrels of fuel it seized from tankers purportedly sent by Iran to Venezuela, spokesman for the Department of Justice, Marc Raimondi, said in an interview with Reuters. The US official did not mention the sale price of the petroleum, but if it was anywhere near the price tag on benchmark European gasoline, then Washington could have made tens of millions of dollars on the deal, Reuters suggested.

    This bulk of the cash will go to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after a district court in Washington, DC rules to approve the order of forfeiture, Raimondi claimed. The fund was created to award payouts to the victims of terrorism the US linked to a nation unilaterally designated by Washington as a "state sponsor of terrorism".

    The list of such "sponsors" currently includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Sudan was recently removed from the list in exchange for normalising ties with Israel.

    US Seizure of 'Iranian' Fuel

    The fuel the US sold was originally seized from tankers that, according to Washington, carried it from Iran to Venezuela as part of the help from the Islamic Republic to crisis-hit Caracas. The vessels in question did not travel under the Iranian flag and were intercepted at sea under civil forfeiture procedures, with their cargo unloaded onto other ships and then delivered to US soil. Iran claims the fuel on these tankers did not belong to it and insists that all of its tankers, sailing under the country's flag, successfully reached Venezuela.

    In this May 25, 2020 file photo, the Iranian oil tanker Fortune is anchored at the dock of El Palito refinery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela
    © AP Photo / Juan Carlos Hernandez
    In this May 25, 2020 file photo, the Iranian oil tanker Fortune is anchored at the dock of El Palito refinery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela

    These tankers carried fuel and materials needed for Caracas to restore its oil refineries, which have struggled to function over the last few years. Due to the limitations imposed by the US sanctions on the country's oil industry, it could not maintain a sophisticated process of refining the extremely heavy blend of crude extracted in the country.

    Washington condemned the petroleum shipments from one sanctioned country to another, claiming that Caracas had embezzled state funds to pay for the Iranian fuel. Tehran dismissed the US allegations, insisting it had no clue about the true nature of the two countries' cooperation and resistance to the "illegal" sanctions pressure.

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    US Reportedly Seeks to Sanction Up to 50 Tankers Over Iran-Venezuela Oil Trade
    Iran's Tankers Delivering Oil to Venezuela is 'Biggest Display of Power', IRGC Chief Says
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    sanctions, fuel, Iran, US
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