US warrant issued for seizure of Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar
The United States has obtained a warrant from a US court to seize an Iranian oil tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West in a last ditch effort to prevent the vessel from leaving Gibraltar.
The Grace 1 was seized by Gibraltar law enforcement agencies and British Royal Marines on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday after Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had secured written assurances from Tehran that the cargo would not go to Syria.
But with the vessel and its 2.1 million barrels of oil free to leave, the United States launched a separate legal appeal to impound the ship on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organization.
A federal court in Washington issued a warrant to seize the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
"A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release.
"The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1."
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the warrant, which was addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer," may be enforced.
The Pentagon declined to comment, as did Britain's Foreign Office. The authorities in GIbraltar have made no comment on the development either.
However, asked on Friday about the potential for U.S. legal intervention, Mr Picardo said any such move would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court.
"It could go back to the court, absolutely,” he BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
On Friday, a source close to the case told the Chronicle that the ship was unlikely to sail before Sunday, with six new crew members including a captain to arrive over the weekend.
The Grace 1 had its name erased and had been re-flagged under the Iranian flag and re-named the Adrian Darya.
Chronicle staff contributed reporting top this article.