TEHRAN (Iran News) – The owners of four Iranian fuel cargoes that were confiscated by US authorities last month mounted a challenge to the seizure, asserting their rights to control the cargo, according to a court filing on Tuesday.
The US Justice Department last month announced the seizure of 1.116 million barrels of fuel it said was destined for Venezuela. The oil industries of Venezuela and Iran, both OPEC nations, are under US sanctions, and Iran earlier this year sent gasoline cargoes to Venezuela, Reuters wrote.
In the Tuesday filing with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the United Arab Emirates-based Mobin International Limited said it was the owner of the cargo aboard the Bella and Bering tankers, the UK-registered Oman Fuel said it owned the cargo aboard the Pandi and Luna tankers, and Oman-registered Sohar Fuel said it part-owned the cargo aboard the Luna.
The companies said they had sold the cargoes onward to the United Arab Emirates-based Citi Energy FZC, but payment was due upon delivery, which was disrupted by the seizure.
“Therefore, claimants Mobin, Oman Fuel, and Sohar Fuel retain a financial stake in those agreements and have immediate right to title, possession, and control of the defendant properties,” the companies wrote.
The companies also disputed the assertion that the shipments were bound for Venezuela.
“At the time they were seized, the defendant properties were destined for Trinidad for sale to customers in Peru and Colombia,” the companies wrote in the filing.
Venezuela shares a maritime border with the Caribbean dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and a land border with Colombia.
US claim of victory dealt a blow
The legal challenge puts yet another damper on the US government’s victory lap which came with the much-hyped claim that Washington had finally found a way to block Iran and Venezuela from evading American economic sanctions, Press TV wrote.
Iran sent five oil tankers carrying 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel to Venezuela in May and June despite American threats to stop them.
An Iranian news agency reported that Iran’s naval forces were preparing to target US commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf in case US forces interfered with Venezuela-bound Iranian oil tankers.
When the New York Times first reported the seizure of the four cargoes last month, the newspaper headlined it as a “diplomatic doubleheader” which blocked Iran and Venezuela from evading American economic sanctions.
Iranian officials brushed aside the claim, with Iran’s Ambassador to Venezuela Hojjat Soltani saying the report was an “act of psychological warfare perpetrated by the US propaganda machine” trying to compensate for the Trump administration’s “humiliation and defeat by Iran using false propaganda.”
“The United States is seeking to contrive a victory for itself. Neither did the ships nor the cargo belong to Iran,” Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said.
Last month, NBC News cited data from online service TankerTrackers.com showing that Iran was exporting a lot more crude oil than US figures suggest.
According to the data, Iran is exporting as much as 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil – thrice more than an estimate of 227,000 bpd made in a US congressional report.
Iran, NBC News said, is coming up with more innovative techniques in wiggling its way around the draconian American sanctions.
Iranian officials have said the country is in an economic war with the United States which has forced international payment networks to cut off the Islamic Republic, making trade all but impossible.
- source : Iran Daily