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US seized websites allegedly linked to Iran-Venezuela oil deal

September 2, 2020 at 1:13 pm

The Iranian-flagged oil tanker. [AFP via Getty Images]

The US government on Friday announced it had seized three websites connected to alleged front companies used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to arrange “a multimillion-dollar fuel shipment” bound for Venezuela.

The front companies were Mobin International, Sohar Fuel and Oman Fuel said to belong to Iranian businessman Mohammad Madanipour, all three websites display a US flag along with a notice that the domains were seized by the US government.

On 14 August, the US Justice Department said it took custody of more than a million barrels of Iranian oil aboard four Greek-owned, Liberia-flagged tankers named the Bella, the Bering, the Luna, and the Pandi. The vessels were carrying the shipment destined to Venezuela, according to US authorities.

READ: US imposes Iran-related sanctions on UAE-based companies

However, it has been reported today that shippers based in the UAE, Oman and UK told a US court that they hold title to the seized vessels. The UAE-based Mobin International said it had purchased all the “petroleum-product” cargoes, chartered the vessels which were heading to Trinidad and Tobago, for sale to customers in Peru and Colombia. The three companies said they had the right to “title, possession, and control” of the cargoes.

Both countries are sanctioned by the US which as a result are not allowed to trade oil at all, let alone with each other. Venezuela is facing a fuel shortage caused by sanctions on its oil industry and Iran has managed to successfully send several fuel and food deliveries to the South American country this year. Last month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro thanked Iran for helping his country overcome US sanctions.

READ: Maduro: Venezuela buying Iranian missiles ‘a good idea’