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September 11 victims seek seizure of Iran oil from US-owned tanker

March 4, 2022 at 4:26 pm

A person walks at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in World Trade Center on September 30, 2020 in New York City [Noam Galai/Getty Images]

Victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks asked a US judge to order the seizure of Iranian crude oil from a tanker owned by an American private equity firm, to help satisfy a $3.61 billion judgment against Iran over the attacks, Reuters reports.

The request came in filings on Thursday with the US District Court in Manhattan.

Dozens of attack victims and their families said the “Suez Rajan”, owned by Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management and idling in Southeast Asia, appeared to be carrying up to 1 million barrels of Iranian oil, violating US sanctions.

They said the oil should be sold to help cover their February 2018 judgment against Iran over that country’s providing material support to Al-Qaeda related to the attacks. Iran has long denied such claims.

Oaktree has about $166 billion of assets under management. Neither the firm nor its London-based Fleetscape unit, which finances the Suez Rajan, immediately responded on Friday to requests for comment.

The request came after the non-profit, United Against Nuclear Iran, which uses satellite images to track tanker movement, wrote Oaktree on 15 February that the “Suez Rajan” appeared to have taken on the oil from another tanker two days earlier.

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Even if the oil were seized, sales proceeds at current prices LCOc1 would cover only about 3 per cent of the $3.61 billion judgment.

Victims said that about $3.44 billion is outstanding, with the National Iranian Oil Co and National Iranian Tanker Corp, both under US sanctions, among the entities responsible to pay it.

Judgments against accused state sponsors of terrorism are often impossible to enforce.

On 18 February, Fleetscape said the “Suez Rajan” was operated by Empire Navigation, and that it had no role operating Empire’s fleet. It also said it took accusations of US sanctions violations seriously.

Empire, based in Athens, said on 21 February it was also investigating the matter. Nearly 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, when planes were flown into New York’s World Trade Centre, the Pentagon in northern Virginia and a Pennsylvania field.

The cases are Hoglan et al v Oaktree Capital Management LP et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-07550; and In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 in the same court, No. 03-md-01570.