July 2, 2020 – A forfeiture complaint and warrant were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all petroleum-product cargo aboard the Bella with international maritime organization (IMO) number 9208124, the Bering with IMO number 9149225, the Pandi with IMO number 9105073, and the Luna with IMO number 9208100 are subject to forfeiture based on the terrorism forfeiture statute.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Steven W. Cagen, Special Agent in Charge, Denver, Colorado, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Rainer S. Drolshagen, Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement today.
The documents allege a scheme involving multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC to covertly ship Iranian gasoil, obtained via ship-to-ship transfers, to Venezuela. The shipments are alleged to be a “source of influence” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The documents allege that profits from petroleum sales support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad. There are approximately 302,502 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bella, approximately 302,522 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bering, approximately 259,700 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Luna, and approximately 298,484 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Pandi. United States District Judge James E. Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all Iranian gasoline on these four vessels, based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability. The warrant commands the property to be brought to the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
A warrant for arrest and civil forfeiture complaint are merely allegations. The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government. Funds successfully forfeited based on terrorism authorities are in part directed to the the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (http://www.usvsst.com/).
In announcing the forfeiture complaint, Assistant Attorney General Demers, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin, Special Agent in Charge Cagen, and Special Agent in Charge Drolshagen commended the work of those who investigated the case from HSI and FBI. Finally, they acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zia Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen; National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon and Trial Attorney David Lim; and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia Paralegal Liz Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick.