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US seeks to seize suspected Iranian oil aboard foreign tanker

Published: Updated:

The US has filed a lawsuit to seize a cargo of oil it says came from Iran rather than Iraq, as stated on the bill of lading, and contravenes US terrorism regulations.

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The lawsuit filed with the US District of Colombia on Tuesday alleges that Iran sought to mask the origin of the oil by transferring it to several vessels before it ended up aboard the Liberian-flagged Achilleas tanker destined for China.

Washington said the scheme involved multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its elite Qods Force, both of which have been declared by foreign terrorist organizations by the US.

“Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents, and other means, and provided a fraudulent bill of lading to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into loading the oil in question,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

It said the Achilleas tanker was subject to seizure based on US terrorism forfeiture laws. The move to seize the cargo followed an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security.

A source at the tanker’s Greek operator Capital Ship Management said the Achilleas was now heading to the United States in full cooperation with US authorities, where the company has a trading license. The Achilleas’ last reported position was off the coast of South America. The US Gulf port of Galveston was its destination with a scheduled arrival on February 15, Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Wednesday.

Iran has not commented on the tanker as yet.

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