An oil tanker in the sea outside the Puerto La Cruz oil refinery in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Picture: REUTERS/ALEXANDRA ULMER
An oil tanker in the sea outside the Puerto La Cruz oil refinery in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Picture: REUTERS/ALEXANDRA ULMER

Washington — The US said on Friday it had seized four Iranian fuel shipments en route to Venezuela and confiscated the cargoes, disrupting a key supply line for both Tehran and Caracas as they defied US sanctions.

“With the assistance of foreign partners, this seized property is now in US custody,” the US justice department said in a statement, adding that the amount confiscated from four tankers was approximately 1.116-million barrels of fuel, making it the largest-ever US seizure of Iranian fuel. It did not specify when and where the seizure took place.

Washington has imposed sanctions on both countries to choke oil exports and deprive them of their main source of revenue in its bid to see the ousting of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and change the behaviour of Iranian government.

Tension between Iran and the US increased in 2019 following a series of incidents involving shipping in and near the Middle East Gulf.

US prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize the petrol aboard the four tankers, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for seizure. Legal sources previously told Reuters that the cargoes could not be seized until they were in US territorial waters.

The justice department said that after the seizure, Iran’s navy forcibly boarded an unrelated ship in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petrol, but was unsuccessful and added that the US Central Command published a video of the attempt on Thursday.


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