WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. government has filed a forfeiture complaint and warrant against four Iranian vessels travelling to Venezuela with more than a million gallons of gasoline on board.
Tne U.S. Justce Department in their filing to the the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allege that all petroleum-product cargo aboard the ships, the Bella, the Bering, the Pandi, and the Luna are subject to forfeiture based on the terrorism forfeiture statute.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Steven W. Cagen, Special Agent in Charge, Denver, Colorado, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Rainer S. Drolshagen, Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement on Thursday.
The documents allege a scheme involving multiple parties affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to covertly ship Iranian gasoil to Venezuela.
The justice department is claiming the shipments are a "source of influence" for the IRGC, which the U.S. has designated a foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. assassinated the group's commander Qasem Soleimani in January this year.
The court documents allege that profits from petroleum sales support the IRGC's full range of what they describe as 'nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad.'
There are approximately 302,502 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bella, approximately 302,522 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bering, approximately 259,700 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Luna, and approximately 298,484 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Pandi.
United States District Judge James E. Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all Iranian gasoline on these four vessels, based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.
The warrant commands the property to be brought to the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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, a justice department issued on Thursday said. Funds successfully forfeited based on terrorism authorities are in part directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
In announcing the forfeiture complaint, Assistant Attorney General Demers, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin, Special Agent in Charge Cagen, and Special Agent in Charge Drolshagen commended the work of those who investigated the case from HSI and the FBI. They acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zia Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen; National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon and Trial Attorney David Lim; and U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia Paralegal Liz Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick.
(Photo credit: Reuters).