The US Justice Department announced that Washington sold around 1.1 million barrels of Iranian oil from four tankers bound for Venezuela.
'Upon being presented with the court’s seizure order, the ships’ owner transferred the petroleum to the government, and we can now announce that the United States has sold and delivered that petroleum,' Deputy Attorney General John Demers said Thursday in a press release.
Defending that the sale of oil to Caracas benefited the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated foreign terrorist group, Demers said: 'It is therefore with great satisfaction that I can announce that our intentions are to take the funds successfully forfeited from the fuel sales and provide them to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the conclusion of the case.'
In July, federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers that Iran was trying to ship to Venezuela, aiming to prevent the revenues from reaching Iran's coffers.
In August, President Donald Trump's administration said it carried out 'the largest seizure of fuel shipments from Iran' which Venezuela had already paid for.
The South American country faces gasoline supply problems due to the coercive US sanctions since crude oil is the country's main export item. Iran's economy, traditionally dependent on oil exports, also suffers from the US’s reinstating crippling economic sanctions, with many countries cutting down oil imports from Iran, fearing economic penalties from Washington.
Due to these sanctions, Venezuela and Iran agreed to exchange fuel to supply the Latin American country.
A huge explosion on Tuesday affected the facilities of Venezuela's main refinery Amuay, which is considered a 'deliberate terrorist attack' by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The plant was in the preventive maintenance phase to be prepared for startup in a few days to increase gasoline production.
Venezuela's Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said that the attack was 'duly planned.'
El Aissami said Thursday the country has '20 days of strategic reserves' to respond to any terrorist group's actions 'that seeks to destabilize the tranquility and peace of the Venezuelan people.'
By Beyza Binnur Donmez