The US Justice Department has issued a federal warrant for the seizure of Grace 1, the Iranian oil tanker that was detained in Gibraltar. The US has said the vessel and the oil aboard are subject to forfeiture.
The US Justice Department issued a federal warrant on Friday for the seizure of Grace 1, the Iranian oil supertanker. The move comes just a day after a Gibraltar judge had allowed the release of the detained vessel despite US legal attempts to withhold it.
The vessel was detained in Gibraltar by the British Royal Marines on July 4 on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria, an ally of Iran.
The US Justice Department stated that the move is based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism forfeiture statutes.
Astralship, the vessel's shipping agent, said the ship could be sailing away within the next "24 to 38 hours," once new crews dispatched to the territory take over command.
"The vessel is ongoing some logistical changes and requirements that have delayed the departure," Richard De la Rosa, managing director of Astralship, told the Associated Press.
DC says vessel tied to terrorism
The warrant for seizure was issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia and addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer."
The US government says that the vessel, including the two million barrels of oil aboard and a sum of $995,000, are subject to forfeiture.
Washington had attempted to withhold the vessel on the basis that it allegedly had ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US has designated a terrorist organization.
Jessie Liu, the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a news release that "the scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1."
The release also mentioned that the seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint "are merely allegations" and that the "burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government."
The tanker moved its position on Friday but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it remains uncertain if it was ready to set sail anytime soon.
mvb/kl (AFP, Reuters)