Miami (US), Jun 30 (AP) For two months, the Malta-flagged oil tanker Alkimos has been quietly floating off the Gulf Coast of Texas, undisturbed by the high-stakes legal fight playing out in a federal courtroom as a result of American sanctions on Venezuela.
The commercial dispute, which hasn't been previously reported, has all the drama of a pirate movie: a precious cargo, clandestine sea maneuvers and accusations of a high seas heist.
It pits Evangelos Marinakis, one of Greece's most powerful businessmen and owner of its most successful soccer club, Olympiakos, against a fellow shipping magnate from Venezuela, Wilmer Ruperti, who has a long history of helping the country's socialist leaders.
Round one appears to have favoured Marinakis, whose Piraeus-based Capital Ship Management Corp, operates the Alkimos.
On Wednesday, federal marshals in Houston are scheduled to auction off the ship's' cargo: 100,266 barrels of high octane gasoline estimated to be worth more than USD 5 million.
The auction is in response to Judge Lynn Hughes' order seizing the cargo, which he said would've likely ended up in Venezuela, while arbitration over a $1.7 million lien continues.
“This clearly demonstrates that sanctions work,” said Russ Dallen, who closely monitors maritime traffic as the head of Miami-based Caracas Capital Markets.
“But although this shipowner appears to have done the right thing, there are lots of other unscrupulous cockroaches in the shipping industry that won't hesitate to do business with Venezuela."
The U.S. has been trying for months to cut off fuel shipments to and from Venezuela, hoping to accelerate Nicolás Maduro's downfall by depriving him of the oil income that is the lifeblood of the socialist country.
But so far the biggest losers have been regular Venezuelans, who are forced to wait in line for days to fill up their cars due to a lack of domestically-refined gasoline.
To date, the Trump administration has sanctioned more than 50 vessels found violating sanctions.
This month it added five Iranian captains to a list of individuals blocked from doing business with the U.S. after Maduro leaned on his fellow anti-American ally to deliver gasoline that skittish commodity traders are increasingly unwilling to supply Venezuela. (AP)
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