Published: Sat, August 17, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Justice Department issues warrant for Iranian tanker seizure

Justice Department issues warrant for Iranian tanker seizure

The Iranian-flagged oil tanker Grace 1, released on Thursday from Gibraltar after being held there for over a month will reportedly head to the Mediterranean Sea under a new name, Adrian Darya.

The United States unsealed a seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint Friday against the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 for allegedly trying to "unlawfully access the usa financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran".

The decision was reportedly made after the Iranian government guaranteed it will not discharge its cargo in Syria. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted by Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency as saying that "Iran has given no assurances over the Grace 1 not going to Syria to secure its release", and that Gibraltar was only seeking to "save face".

"The tanker's destination was not Syria. and even if it was, it did not concern anyone else".

Gibraltar lifted the detention order for the vessel on Thursday, affirming in a statement that there are "no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the "Grace 1" in order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation".

Following the Grace 1's release, Britain renewed its demand that Iran release the British-flagged tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

Iran previously called the detention of Grace 1 an "illegal interception".

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Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said it was strictly a matter of the ship's agents and owners.

The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States a year ago pulled out of an global agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme, and reimposed economic sanctions.

"The documents allege a scheme to unlawfully access the USA 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 court papers allege the Grace 1 is owned and managed by separate companies that appear to be operating on behalf of other parties.

The official said the Iranian tanker constitutes some $130 million worth of oil that was destined for a designated terror organization to conduct more terrorism, and that is a compelling case for seizure.

The Justice Department released the warrant one day after a judge in Gibraltar allowed the release of the detained vessel.

In another tweet earlier in the day, Zarif had blamed the United States administration for the capture of the oil tanker and said, "Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its #EconomicTerrorism-including depriving cancer patients of medicine- the USA attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas".

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