The United States is seeking to detain the oil aboard a tanker traveling to the U.S., alleging that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has created a scheme to covertly ship Iranian oil to a customer outside Iran, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday.
The U.S. filed a forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all oil aboard a Liberian-flagged vessel, the Achilleas, is subject to forfeiture under U.S. terrorism forfeiture laws.
The supertanker is carrying 2 million barrels of what the United States believes is Iranian crude oil traveling to the U.S., Bloomberg reported last week, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. The very large crude carrier, is traveling between Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the U.S., according to MarineTraffic.
Bloomberg’s sources said last week that the owner of the supertanker, Greek company Capital Ship Management Corp, had notified the U.S. that it might have unknowingly loaded Iranian oil on board, believing the crude had come from Iraq.
In the forfeiture complaint, the U.S. said that “Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents, and other means, and provided a fraudulent bill of lading to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into loading the oil in question.”
“The forfeiture complaint filed today serves as a reminder that the IRGC and IRGC-QF continue to exert significant control over the sale of Iranian oil,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the National Security Division.
“This investigation sends a message that the attempted circumvention of U.S. sanctions by the IRGC-QF will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York.
Despite indications from U.S. President Joe Biden that he would offer Tehran a path back to diplomacy and a return to the nuclear deal, lifting the sanctions on Iran is still months away, at best.
“We are a long way from there,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, while he was still President Biden’s nominee for the role.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com