Oil tanker Suez Rajan. Undated

Greek Shipper Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Iran's Sanctioned Oil

Thursday, 09/07/2023

A Greek shipping company has pleaded guilty in the United States to smuggling sanctioned Iranian oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine the Associated Press reported.

Documents unsealed by a US court made the case of tanker a seized by the US public part of the public record. US prosecutors acknowledged for the first time the government seized around one million barrels of Iranian crude from the tanker Suez Rajan.

The saga began in February when the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran reported the tanker’s involvement in illicit transfer of Iranian oil in the South China Sea. For months, the vessel was stranded off the coast of Singapore and then it sailed for the Gulf of Mexico, in what appeared to be seizure of the oil by the United States.

For a while, the oil was not offloaded, as it was reported that US companies were reluctant to get involved presumably because of threats by Iran. In the meantime, the Biden administration was involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations with Tehran over the release of five American hostages and potentially an unofficial nuclear deal.

After Congressional inquiries about why the oil was not being unloaded, the process began August 20 off the Texas coast.

Since the Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the sale of Iranian oil, Tehran found ways to boost its illicit shipments using a fleet of tankers, often moving without identification signals, and transferring cargoes to other ships in Asian waters before delivery to China.

These shipments have increased during the Biden administration. According to the latest figures, Iran shipped close to 2 million barrels a day in August, close to pre-sanction days.

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