US Issues Warrant to Seize Iranian Oil Tanker
Newly released US court documents revealed that Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of an Iranian tanker that British Royal Marines had seized last month in Gibraltar, citing evidence that it was transporting oil to Syria in violation of US sanctions.
The oil tanker Grace 1, the more than 2 million barrels of oil it carries and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on a complaint by the US government, Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu said in a news release on Friday.
The tanker was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
In a court document obtained by Reuters, it said there was evidence that showed that the tanker was scheduled to arrive in Syria in early July.
"Charts and electronic equipment recovered from onboard the Grace 1, WhatsApp messages recovered from crewmembers' mobile devices, and crewmembers' statements revealed that the Grace 1 was destined for Port Banias, Syria in violation of US sanctions," the document said.
For his part, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied that the destination was Syria and he was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying: "As we said earlier ... Syria was not its destination and we have upheld the same ... and reiterated that it was nobody's business even if it was Syria,"
According to Reuters, Gibraltar authorities said on Thursday the US Department of Justice had applied to seize the tanker.
Gibraltar, which said it first received a US Department of Justice request to seize the Grace 1 tanker on Thursday, lifted the tanker's detention order later in the same day. But, the vessel's fate was further complicated by a last-ditch US legal appeal to hold it.
The warrant for the seizure of the tanker was issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia and addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer."