The United States has issued a warrant 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 British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday after the British territory’s chief minister 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, 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 US attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release.
The Pentagon declined to comment, as did Britain’s Foreign Office. Asked on Friday about the US intervention, Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said that would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court. “It could go back to the court absolutely.”
The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported that the vessel was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive. —Reuters