The US confirmed Friday that it seized over one million barrels of Iranian oil from four tankers bound for Venezuela.
The Justice Department said the seizure of Iranian fuel was the largest ever recorded, charging that it was sent by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terrorist group. The oil is now in US custody.
The actions come after US District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg issued an order to seize cargo on board the Luna, Pandi, Bering and Bella.
US President Donald Trump said the ships are either in transit or have already arrived in Houston, Texas, a major US oil terminal.
“We have four tankers. They’re going to Houston, and they’re there,” he told reporters at the White House.
In July, federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers that Iran was trying to ship to Venezuela, aiming to prevent the revenues from reaching Iran’s coffers.
Iran’s economy, traditionally dependent on oil exports, has suffered in recent years with the US reinstating crippling economic sanctions it agreed to lift as part of a 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
The tensions between Iran and the US escalated after Trump announced the unilateral US exit from the pact in May 2018, and began to reinstate sanctions that had been eased by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Iran’s oil industry has been hit hard by the sanctions, with many countries cutting down oil imports from Iran, fearing economic penalties from the US.