A U.S. court has issued a warrant for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a fierce international dispute, the Justice Department said late Friday.
The oil tanker, Grace 1, with more than 2 million barrels of oil aboard and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on a complaint by the U.S. Government.
Jessie K. Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia said the tanker and its contents should be forfeited because of violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud, money laundering and terrorism forfeiture statutes.
The Justice Department says the Grace 1 has ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which it had designated a terrorist organization.
“The documents allege a scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization,” Ms. Liu said in a news release. “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 Justice Department released the warrant one day after a judge in Gibraltar allowed the release of the detained vessel.
British authorities boarded Grace 1 off the coast on Gibraltar last month alleging it was transporting millions of barrels of crude oil to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in violations of European Union sanctions.
On Thursday Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he received assurances from Iran that Grace 1’s cargo was not destined for Syria.
“I welcome that assurance,” Mr. Picardo said in a statement, adding there were “no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention.”
Although Gibraltar lifted the tanker’s detention order, the legal battle became messy after a last-ditch U.S. effort to hold it.
Mr. Picardo said the U.S. request should be reviewed by Mutual Legal Assistance authorities who will make “an objective, legal determination of that request for separate proceedings.”
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