Civil forfeiture? Good idea or bad? There are a number of people who read this blog who have been critical of this in the past.

The U.S. has seized the cargo of four Iranian vessels believed to have been carrying an estimated 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, allegedly bound for Venezuela.

On Thursday, U.S. officials told the Associated Press they used legal means to seize the Iranian fuel shipments arranged between an Iranian businessman and Venezuela. The officials said the U.S. did not use military force or physically seize the cargo shipments but instead used sanctions against its private owners, insurers and their captains. With their latest actions, a U.S. official told the AP the Iranian fuel “now becomes U.S. property.”

It is not clear where the fuel shipments actually are as the four tanker vessels — the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna —reportedly turned off their tracking systems to hide their locations from U.S. searchers.

The new development comes a month after U.S. prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture complaint alleging the shipments were arranged as a private sale between businessman Mahmoud Madanipour and Venezuela. Madanipour is alleged to have ties to Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terror group.

U.S. sanctions experts who spoke with the AP after the initial civil forfeiture complaint was filed said they believed the civil forfeiture effort would be difficult to enforce in international waters. But their fears of impotence apparently were unfounded.


  1. I say sink all four of those ships.

    We don’t need the oil, and we certainly don’t need two of our enemies benefiting from the exchange.

    What will Iran and Venezuela do? Declare war on us? I think they already have, so what else they got? Bad things to say about us on Twitter?

    • A clever operation would have called for Aunt Sally preparing (pre-cooked) meals for all four ships. They would have sailed, croaked, the US could have boarded them safely and put prize crews on them and simply sailed the formerly derelict ships to the nearest US port. Empty the gas out of the ships and sell it. Sell the ships at auction, pocket the money.

      • And of course re-reimburse Aunt Sally for her product. I’m pretty sure she’s up to the job, and I am confident that she has plenty of ptomaine on hand, I believe she has a few jars of the stuff in her spice rack.

  2. From what I know, I remain opposed to civil asset forfeiture. If this is a good use of the rules, it’s one out of far too many uses of the technique. We typically only hear of the bad examples of it, so I have no idea what the balance sheet of good vs. bad is, but there seem to be far too many stories of improper use, like the attempt to seize the motel in Massachusetts, or people traveling with cash that have it confiscated simply because they’re traveling with cash or the government at all levels seizing more assets from Americans than all robberies put together.

    Do our economic sanctions against Iran allow seizing it without claiming civil asset forfeiture? I’m ignorant here. If not, I’m not opposed to bombing and sinking those ships.

    • Exactly. Not all civil asset forfeiture is equal. The ships are owned by a Specifically Designated National, so can be seized.

  3. They were seized on the high seas, right?

    I don’t think it’s civil forfeiture in that case, as there is no law on the high seas except power.

    Seem like more of a blockade action, to me.

    Also, I only object to civil forfeiture being used against US citizens, when it comes right down to it. Actions against enemy nations are all good in my book.

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