US announces warrant to seize Iranian supertanker Grace 1

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The US Justice Department unveiled a warrant on Friday for the seizure of the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1, one day after a Gibraltar judge allowed the release of the detained vessel.

The warrant says the vessel, all the oil aboard and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism forfeiture statutes.

The documents allege a scheme to unlawfully access the US financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1. A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments.

A seizure warrant is merely an allegation. “Every criminal defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty, and the burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government,” according to the warrant.

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials said the tanker was preparing to set sail after a Gibraltar judge ordered its release, six weeks after it was detained in apparent retaliation for Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf.

The Grace 1 was to be renamed and switch to the Iranian flag for its onward journey, the deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, told Iranian state television on Friday.

But according to an AFP source, the ship was awaiting the arrival of a new crew before it would leave Gibraltar.

- With AFP

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