The State Department said on Friday that the US government had seized the vessel and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil, alleging it was transporting Iranian oil to China in violation of Washington’s sanctions against Tehran.
It further claimed that the US government obtained a warrant earlier this year for its seizure.
On April 19, around the time of the seizure, the vessel’s owner, Suez Rajan Ltd, pleaded guilty to sanctions violations and was fined $2.5 million.
Subsequently, the Greek vessel’s operator, Empire Navigation, agreed to cooperate with US authorities and ordered the ship, located in Southeast Asia at the time, to take its load of oil to the United States.
The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy warned on July 20 that any oil company unloading hundreds of thousands of barrels of seized Iranian oil sitting in a Greek tanker off the coast of Texas would be held accountable.
Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri’s remarks came on the anniversary of Iran’s confiscation of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in 2019 after Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar.
A few days after the seizure of the M/T Suez Rajan, Iran’s Navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Sea of Oman, which was carrying Kuwaiti oil for the second-largest energy company in the US.
The oil tanker, named Advantage Sweet, had been involved in a maritime accident with an Iranian fishing craft, which resulted in the injury and missing of a number of its crew.
After the collision, the oil tanker attempted to flee the scene in serious breach of international laws and regulations, which require the provision of medical treatment and supply of proper and sufficient medicine to seamen in case of sickness or injury.
After sitting off the Texas coast for months, the Suez Rajan began the hours-long ship-to-ship transfer of its oil to another tanker, the MR Euphrates, on August 21.
The newly released court documents confirm the US government then seized the oil.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on August 21, spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry Nasser Kan’ani emphasized that the Islamic Republic won’t remain silent on any violation of the Iranian nation’s rights, will show an appropriate reaction, and will “cut off the hands of violators.”
He reminded the parties that have plans to confiscate Iran’s oil to review the history of Iran’s actions in similar cases.
“Measures that involve attacking oil tankers carrying Iranian oil are a brazen example of piracy,” Kan’ani stated.
The United States and its allies have been seizing Iranian oil cargoes since the previous US administration of Donald Trump withdrew unilaterally from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.