U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, Aug. 16, issued a seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint alleging that Oil Tanker “Grace 1” and its cargo are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA)
The court documents allege a scheme to illegally access the U.S. financial system to support illegal shipments of crude oil to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an organization designated as a foreign terrorist, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1.
A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments.
The Grace 1, an Iranian tanker carrying 2.1 million tons of crude was approached by British authorities off the coast of Gibraltar [British colony in southern Spain] on July 4 for allegedly transporting crude oil to the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad, thereby violating European Union sanctions.
On Thursday, Aug. 15, the Gibraltar Supreme Court ruled to suspend the arrest warrant and the supertanker was released on a promise not to deliver the fuel to any refinery in Syrian territory, CBS News reported.
Gibraltar authorities said the U.S. Department of Justice had requested a seizure of the ship and its cargo, but Fabian Picard, Gibraltar’s chief minister, said the request should be made directly to the territory’s judiciary and not to the government, according CBS News.
Yesterday, the United States issued an arrest warrant for the oil tanker Grace 1, which despite being free to leave Gibraltar, is still docked there and the captain has requested to be replaced as soon as possible, the seafarer’s lawyer told CBS News.
The incident with the tankers is part of escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington due to the Iranian regime’s noncompliance with the nuclear pact that the United States ended up withdrawing from.
In April, President Trump designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group for participating in, financing, and promoting terrorism as a political tool.