US seeks to seize Iranian oil aboard Greek tanker

The United States has initiated a process to seize alleged Iranian oil aboard a Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned tanker.

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On 3 February, the US Department of Justice (US DOJ) said it filed a forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all oil aboard the M/T Achilleas is subject to forfeiture based on U.S. terrorism forfeiture laws.

The 324,655 cbm very large crude carrier (VLCC) is managed by Greece-based Capital Ship Management, data provided by VesselsValue shows.

As explained, the complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly ship Iranian oil to a customer abroad.

According to the US DOJ, participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship (STS) 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 complaint alleges in part that the oil constitutes the property of, or a “source of influence” over, the IRGC and the IRGC-QF, both of which have been designated by the United States as “foreign terrorist organizations”.

The US authorities claim that Iran uses profits from oil sales to support the “malign” activities of the IRGC-QF.

“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,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, said.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will continue working with our law enforcement partners to stem the flow of illicit oil from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qods Force,” Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney, noted.

The forfeiture complaint is America’s latest move in enforcing sanctions that target the Iranian shipping and petroleum network.

In late October 2020, the US imposed sanctions on the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), and the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, in an effort to further increase economic pressure on Iran.

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