U.S. Secretary of StateMike Pompeo says proceeds from Iranian gasoline seized from oil tankers bound for Venezuela could reach "American victims of state terrorism."
The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed that it has seized the cargo of four oil tankers, Luna, Pandi, Bering, and Bella, in recent days for violating U.S. sanctions.
In his press briefing on Friday, August 14, at the White House, President Donald Trump said that the seized tankers would be sent to Houston, but did not elaborate.
The seized tankers were reportedly bound for Venezuela with 1.1 million barrels of Iranian gasoline. However, Iran has denied the allegations, saying the United States intends to wage a "psychological war."
In a tweet, Iran's ambassador to Venezuela, Hojat Soltani, rejected as "fake news" the U.S. claim of seizing the four tankers.
"Yet another lie and psychological warfare by the US propaganda machine. The tankers are neither Iranians, nor their owners or flags have anything to do with Iran. The terrorist Trump just wants to cover up the humiliation of his failure against the great nation of Iran by scattering false propaganda," the ambassador tweeted.
Nonetheless, Mike Pompeo tweeted on Friday that he was pleased the Justice Department has confiscated Iranian gasoline that had been illegally sent to the Venezuelan government.
He added that if the gasoline proceeds are forfeited in U.S. courts, they could go to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund "instead of the hands of terrorists."
The Pandi, also known as Andy, and the Luna turned off their satellite signals on July 7 near the Strait of Hormuz, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bering switched off its transponder on May 11 while approaching the Aegean Sea. The Bella was last seen on May 11 near the Philippines, Bloomberg reported.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the cargo was intercepted on Wednesday, acting on a warrant issued by a U.S. District Court over a July 2 complaint seeking the forfeiture of all petroleum products aboard the vessels. The property is now in U.S. custody, the Justice Department said.