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Venezuela-bound fuel seized by US from tankers ‘no longer belonged to Iran’ says oil minister

Iran’s Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh confirmed that the fuel last week seized by the US from four Venezuela-bound tankers is Iranian but added: “The cargoes were loaded from Iran, but neither the ships nor the cargoes belonged to Iran, and the US declared victory for itself in the middle of this. The fuel was Iranian, but it had been sold to Venezuela and its payment had been cleared.”

Zanganeh drew the distinction at an August 17 briefing, though Washington is unlikely to care who technically owned the fuel at the point of its confiscation as US officials will see the seizure as successfully disrupting the emerging strategic alliance between Iran and Venezuela, two countries the Trump administration is attempting to bend to its will with the use of crushing sanctions.

The US said the ships were carrying 1.1mn barrels of petroleum.

It’s unclear where the ships were at the time of the seizures because they had all turned off their satellite-tracking systems to avoid detection, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Venezuela has the world’s largest crude reserves, but in recent years production has plummeted and its refineries have fallen into disrepair. Analysts say that is because of mismanagement by President Nicolas Maduro’s government and US sanctions that have disrupted repairs and maintenance.