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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 14, 2020

Largest U.S. Seizure of Iranian Fuel from Four Tankers

            The Justice Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization that was bound for Venezuela.  These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.

            On July 2, 2020, the United States filed a complaint seeking to forfeit all petroleum-product cargo aboard four foreign-flagged oil tankers, including the M/T Bella with international maritime organization (IMO) number 9208124, the M/T Bering with IMO number 9149225, the M/T Pandi with IMO number 9105073, and the M/T Luna with IMO number 9208100 (all pictured below).  A seizure order for the cargo from all four vessels was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

            The government announced today that it has successfully executed the seizure order and confiscated the cargo from all four vessels, totaling approximately 1.116 million barrels of petroleum.  With the assistance of foreign partners, this seized property is now in U.S. custody.   

            After enforcement of the U.S. forfeiture order, Iran’s navy forcibly boarded an unrelated ship in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petroleum, but was unsuccessful.  U.S. Central Command published a video of the failed Iranian operation yesterday.  See https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1293678243552395264

            “The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia will continue to use civil forfeiture tools to punish state sponsors of terrorism and recover funds for the victims of terrorism,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia. “This office has been at the forefront of seizing and forfeiting vessels used to clandestinely ship fuel in violation of U.S. sanctions.  Today’s announcement demonstrates the relentless efforts of our law enforcement partners to ensure that seizure orders are executed no matter where the property in question is located.”

            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 (http://www.usvsst.com/) after the conclusion of the case.

            A warrant for arrest and civil forfeiture complaint are merely allegations.  The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government. 

            HSI’s Colorado Springs and FBI’s Minneapolis field office are investigating the case. Assistant U.S Attorneys Zia M. Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen, and National Security Division Trial Attorney David Lim are litigating the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialists Elizabeth Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 
20-094
Updated August 14, 2020