US sells Iranian crude seized on the high seas
The US government has sold Iranian petroleum products confiscated by the Navy in the waters of the Arabian Sea for $26.7 million, the Department of Justice said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The volume of crude sold reportedly amounted to about 1.1 million barrels. The returns would reportedly be sent to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
“The US government sold the seized petroleum products pursuant to a court order. The net proceeds of that sale, $26,681,397.67 before interest, may be directed, in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund now that the case has concluded,” the Justice Department said.
The statement doesn’t specify when the maritime forfeiture operations were conducted, but claims that the petroleum products were seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela.
It is also not clear if the seizure of Iranian crude was legal under international and US laws.
A Justice Department website says America “has authority under international law to enter into agreements to stop, search, and detain foreign vessels on the high seas that are suspected of trafficking in illicit drugs.“
The United States may limit its jurisdiction over a foreign flag vessel seized on the high seas, and the vessel may be returned to the flag state at its request without compliance with domestic forfeiture law.
“Where the United States is authorized under international law to exercise its police powers to detain ships on behalf of their flag state, such detention does not constitute a taking under the Fifth Amendment. However, where a ship is seized concurrently on behalf of the United States for violation of US customs laws, a claimant is entitled to a prompt adjudication of his rights in the seized property.”
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