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US says it disrupted illicit oil shipment by Iran’s IRGC, seized contraband crude

September 8, 2023 at 5:26 pm

A general view of the Port of Kharg Island Oil Terminal, in the Persian Gulf on March 12, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

The US, on Friday, confirmed it disrupted in April a multimillion-dollar shipment of crude oil by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, seizing more than 980,000 barrels of contraband crude oil that violated US sanctions, Reuters reports.

In a sanctions enforcement operation, the US confiscated cargo onboard the “Suez Rajan”, a Marshall Islands tanker, which was carrying Iranian oil at sea. The vessel was unloaded last month, after waiting 2-1/2 months off the coast of Texas to discharge.

The “illicit sale and transport of Iranian oil” violated sanctions targeting Iran, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement that, for the first time, acknowledged its role.

The “Suez Rajan Ltd” company pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to three years of corporate probation and a fine of almost $2.5 million, according to legal documents.

Empire Navigation, the operating company of the vessel carrying the contraband cargo, agreed to cooperate and transport the Iranian oil to the United States, the DOJ added, calling it the first criminal resolution to such a sanctions-violating sale.

Greece-based Empire Navigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a message to every Iranian smuggler that there is an off ramp from the mob,” said Mark Wallace, Chief Executive of US advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran, which uses satellite images to track tanker movement and first noted that the “Suez Rajan” had taken on the oil from another tanker.

READ: Iran warns against unloading Iranian oil from seized tanker