The US government seized nearly 1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil allegedly bound for China, according to newly unsealed court documents and a statement released by the Department of Justice on Friday.
The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy warned on July 20 that any oil company unloading hundreds of thousands of barrels of seized Iranian oil sitting in a Greek tanker off the coast of Texas would be held accountable.
Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri’s remarks came on the anniversary of Iran’s confiscation of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in 2019, which was an act of retaliation for the Britain seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar.
The Justice Department called it the first-ever criminal resolution involving a company that violated sanctions by facilitating the illicit sale and transport of Iranian oil in concert with a successful seizure of over 980,000 barrels that was part of a multimillion-dollar shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to court documents, on April 19, Suez Rajan Limited pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
The Marshall Islands company is the registered owner of the Suez Rajan, a 12-year-old tanker that was diverted to US waters last year. U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. NicholsIt sentenced the company to a three-year probation period and a $2.46 million fine.
Empire Navigation, the Greece-based operator of the vessel, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to cooperate by transporting the Iranian oil to the United States, according to court documents.
Empire Navigation incurred significant expenses associated with the vessel’s voyage to the United States. The United States’ forfeiture complaint alleges that the oil aboard the vessel is subject to forfeiture based on U.S. terrorism and money laundering statutes.
The Suez Rajan took delivery of the oil from another vessel, the Virgo, in February 2022 — a transaction that was spotted using satellite photographs and transponder analysis by United Against Nuclear Iran, a pressure group. The group established that the oil had been sourced from Iran’s Kharg Island.
“Measures that involve attacking oil tankers carrying Iranian oil are a brazen example of piracy,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kan’ani, who threatened that the Islamic Republic won’t remain silent on any violation of his nation’s rights and will “cut off the hands of violators.”
The two countries have had an acrimonious relationship since American operatives helped overthrow the elected leader in order to steal Iran’s oil.
In 1953, the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup organized by the CIA and MI6, which installed Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose reign lasted from 1941 until 1979.
By 1978, the military killed and wounded dozens of protestors amid growing political unrest that snowballed into a popular revolution leading to the monarchy’s overthrow. With the revolution, the Iranian monarchy was abolished, and Iran was declared an Islamic republic led by Ruhollah Khomeini.
One of the results of the 1953 coup was that the U.S. took about 40% of Britain’s share of Iranian oil as part of the wider transition from British to American dominance in the region.
The coup and subsequent U.S. support for the Shah proved largely responsible for his arbitrary rule, which led to the “deeply anti-American character” of the 1979 revolution.
“Some people say: By chanting ‘Death to America,’ you bring America’s animosity upon yourself. I say that this is not true,” said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in November 2022. “When America began its hostility towards Iran, nobody had been chanting ‘Death to America.'”