DoJ admits US looted 1 million barrels of Iranian oil in April
The US DoJ says the government had seized the Suez Rajan, a Greek-managed tanker, and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil.
The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) confirmed on Friday that the US looted a tanker load of Iranian oil in April.
The DoJ's first official statement on the incident mentioned on its website that the government had seized the Suez Rajan, a Greek-managed tanker, and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil, allegedly being sold by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) to China.
The statement claimed that the sale violated US and international sanctions and that the US government obtained a warrant early this year for its seizure.
On April 19, around the time of the seizure, the vessel's owner, Suez Rajan Ltd, pleaded guilty to sanctions violations and was fined $2.5 million.
Subsequently, the Greek vessel operator, Empire Navigation, agreed to cooperate with US authorities and ordered the ship, located in Southeast Asia at the time, to take its load of oil to the United States.
At the time, US authorities would not confirm it was seizing the cargo and that the ship was sailing to the United States.
A few days later, Iran seized two tankers -- the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet after it violated international and navigation laws as it sailed toward the United States in the Gulf of Oman and then the Greek-owned Niovi over a private complaint and a consequent order by judicial authorities as it traveled from Dubai to Fujairah.
According to the Iranian television IRIB, the Iranian Navy had seized Advantage Sweet after it collided with an Iranian vessel, injuring several and resulting in the disappearance of crew members, prompting an Iranian military force to drop on deck through a helicopter and seize the vessel.
IRIB reported that Advantage Sweet, which carried a US payload but flew the Marshall Islands flag, attempted to escape following the incident. It shut down its trackers, in an act that contradicts international navigation laws.
On July 20, IRGC Navy commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri warned that any oil firm discharging hundreds of thousands of barrels of looted Iranian oil sitting aboard a Greek ship off the coast of Texas would be held responsible.
On August 21, after months of waiting off the Texas coast, the Suez Rajan began the transfer of Iranian oil to another tanker, the MR Euphrates.
In response, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani underlined that Iran would not remain idle with regard to the piracy acts against tankers carrying Iranian oil.
"Acts of trespassing on tankers carrying Iranian oil are a clear example of piracy," Kanaani was quoted by Iranian news agency Fars as saying. "Iran will not stand idly by in relation to any violation of the nation's rights and will cut the hands of the aggressors."
It is noteworthy that since the administration of then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, Washington and its allies have begun looting vessels carrying Iranian oil.