U.S. court approves private sale of gasoline suspected to be for Venezuela

(Reuters) - A U.S. court has approved a private sale of 100,000 barrels of gasoline that a shipping company suspected was destined for fuel-starved Venezuela, after an auction last week received no bids, filings showed late on Thursday.

Marshall Islands-based Brujo Finance Company feared the South American country was the destination of a cargo its Alkimos tanker shipped from Panama to Aruba in April on behalf of Wilmer Ruperti, a Venezuelan magnate who is close to the socialist government in Caracas, which is under U.S. sanctions.

After a July 1 court-ordered auction for the cargo at a minimum $2.5 million price received no bids, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a sale Brujo arranged with Quanah Petroleum Consulting LLC for $2.73 million.

Quanah plans to ship the cargo, which has been anchored off the U.S. Gulf Coast, to Panama.

Little is known about Quanah, which according to its website is based in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts & Nevis.

Quanah did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Brujo’s lawyers declined to comment beyond court filings.

A trader who did not bid in the auction, Matthew Goitia of Houston-based Peaker Energy, objected to the private sale, noting he had offered to pay a higher amount, $2.8 million, in a private sale.

“The fact pattern here does not add up,” Goitia wrote the judge.

In response, Brujo said in court documents that Goitia’s bid was contingent on Brujo delivering the cargo to Lake Charles, Louisiana, while Quanah’s offer was unconditional. Brujo said shipment to Louisiana would have raised concerns about violation of the Jones Act, which restricts cargo transport between U.S. ports to U.S.-owned ships.

Goitia told Reuters that since Brujo agreed to deliver the cargo to Panama, “my request should have been granted as well.”

Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman