July 3 (UPI) – As the United States continues to pressure two opposing countries, an American judge has issued a warrant for the seizure of more than one million barrels of gasoline shipped by four Iranian oil tankers to Venezuela.
US District Judge James E. Boasberg signed the warrant Thursday after authorities filed a complaint the previous night in the District of Columbia alleging that nearly 1.2 million barrels of Persian gasoline on the Bella, Bering , the Pandi and the Luna could be confiscated because the sale of their cargo is intended to benefit the sanctioned Iranian entities, in particular the elite corps of guards of the Islamic Revolution.
The complaint alleges that the tankers’ cargo is “a source of influence” for the CGRI, which President Donald Trump designated as a foreign terrorist organization in April 2019.
“The benefits of these activities support the full spectrum of harmful CGRI activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism and a variety of human rights violations across the country and abroad “, according to the complaint.
The ships were discovered during an investigation by the US authorities through the use of a series of confidential informants who revealed that the sale of oil to Venezuela had been organized according to a complicated scheme involving several orchestrated parties by Iranian businessman Mahmoud Madanipour, affiliated to the CGRI.
The gasoline, according to the authorities, was placed on ships through ship-to-ship transfers in order to evade detection and sanctions.
According to the complaint, an anonymous co-conspirator texted Madanipour indicating that there had been problems with the Bella and the Bering because of the US sanctions.
“The shipowner does not want to leave because of the US threat, but we want him to leave, and we have even agreed that we will also buy the ship,” the co-conspirator told Madanipour, according to the complaint.
Alireza Miryousefi, the Iranian mission to the United States, lambasted the warrant as “an act of piracy, outright.”
“It is a direct threat to international peace and security and in violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations,” he said via Twitter.
US has lobbied Middle East country since Trump withdrew from multinational Obama-era nuclear deal to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapon in May 2018, calling it “flawed in its essence “.
Since then, it has repeatedly imposed sanctions against Iran in an effort to force the return to the negotiating table for a new agreement. However, Iran has responded by reneging on some of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has further damaged relations between Tehran and the West.
At the end of last month, Iranian prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for Trump and 35 other U.S. officials linked to the January murder of Qassem Soleimani, the former chief of the IRGC.
Trump ordered his assassination in retaliation for the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
U.S. targets Iranian oil industry and last week sanctioned Iranian captains of five tankers for shipping 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline to Venezuela in support of the besieged president of the South American nation , Nicolas Maduro.
The first of these five ships, Fortune, arrived in Venezuela in late May to celebrate Maduro.
“At a time when the supremacist empire is seeking to impose its power by force, only the brotherhood of free peoples will save us,” said Maduro. via Twitter, displaying photos of the Persian tanker.
Maduro – who has been under increasing pressure from the United States to resign since his 2018 re-election was deemed illegitimate early last year – has clung to power with the help of China, Cuba, Russia and Iran, said the US authorities.
Attempts to seize ships also occur as U.S. urges UN Security Council to extend arms embargo on Iran, warning that if allowed to expire, Tehran could become a “red arms dealer,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier. this week.