Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, announced on Thursday that America expects to recover over $40 million from selling Iranian oil confiscated by the U.S. Navy in August.
The four illegal oil shipments, totaling over a million barrels of petroleum, were bound for Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions.
Sherwin said a “great portion” of the $40 million would be placed into a U.S. fund for the victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Iran has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to the victims of terrorism supported or orchestrated by the regime in Tehran, but the regime refuses to make the payments.
Venezuela has enormous oil reserves, but its economy has been comprehensively wrecked by the socialist policies of dictator Nicolás Maduro, who has been reduced to importing fuel from Iran and paying with planeloads of gold. Both Venezuela and Iran are under U.S. sanctions.
The Justice Department also announced on Thursday that it has filed the court paperwork to compel the forfeiture of Iranian missiles seized en route to Yemen, where Iran has been supporting the Houthi insurgency that overthrew the internationally-recognized government in a 2015 coup.
The U.S. Navy confiscated the Iranian shipments of surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles in November 2019 and February 2020 after intercepting vessels in the Arabian Sea that were operating without national flags. The Navy also confiscated enough blasting caps to supply the entire U.S. military for a year.
“The two forfeiture complaints allege sophisticated schemes by the IRGC to secretly ship weapons to Yemen and fuel to Venezuela, countries that pose grave threats to the security and stability of their respective regions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Demers said in a statement on Thursday, referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the wing of the Iranian military controlled by Iran’s theocracy and a designated terrorist organization.
More specifically, the U.S. said the illicit Iranian shipments were made by the Quds Force, the subversive and destabilizing black-operations unit of the IRGC headed by Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani until he was eliminated by a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.
According to Demers, the intercepted shipments to Venezuela and Yemen represent the U.S. government’s “largest-ever civil seizures of fuel and weapons from Iran.”
Demers said he felt “great satisfaction” that much of the money recovered by selling Iran’s illegal oil shipments to Venezuela would be directed to the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
Eliott Abrams, the U.S. State Department’s special representative for Iran and Venezuela, said funds from selling the seized Iranian oil “will now go to a far better use than either regime, Iran or Venezuela, could have envisioned because it will provide relief for victims of terrorism rather than the perpetrators of such acts.”