United States issues warrant for seizure of Iranian tanker previously held in Gibraltar

United States issues warrant for seizure of Iranian tanker previously held in Gibraltar

Judge Dudley said the ship would have been on its way had Washington not intervened, at a time when an accord between London and Tehran had seemed within reach after weeks of diplomatic wrangling.

But late on Friday, a day after the tanker was released from detention, the USA obtained a warrant to seize the vessel over violations of US sanctions, money laundering and terrorism statutes.

Washington's move had delayed the court decision on the vessel's fate but Judge Dudley said in his ruling that he had not received a written request from the US.

Grace 1 shifted position on Friday, but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail soon.

Washington had attempted to detain the Grace 1 on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a "terrorist" organisation.

"The US, with its forlorn last-ditch attempts, tried to prevent the release of the oil tanker but faced a humiliating defeat", Baeidinejad said on his Twitter account on Thursday night.

An Iranian official, however, later disputed that any assurances had been given.

The Grace 1 supertanker was intercepted in waters off Gibraltar by the British navy last month on suspicion that it was delivering oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.

The Grace 1 vessel and its July 4 seizure came amid surging tensions in the Gulf after several alleged Iranian attacks on smaller tankers. Iran still holds the Stena Impero.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned London that it will definitely pay the price for the seizure of Grace 1 in global waters. The US says the documents were forced to mask the fact that the ship had actually departed from Iran.

Mr. Picardo said the US request should be reviewed by Mutual Legal Assistance authorities who will make "an objective, legal determination of that request for separate proceedings".

Prior to announcement of the warrant, the United States said the crew of the supertanker could be subject to a USA visa ban.

"I think this is in the category of 'win a few, lose a few.' We decided to make a run at [the tanker]".

"This US complaint alleges that Iran has violated US sanctions after the US pulled out the 2015 nuclear deal a year ago", said Al Jazeera's John Hendren, reporting from Washington, DC. "It doesn't change the overall situation, which is that we are squeezing Iran harder and harder economically".

But in May 2018 Donald Trump announced the United States would pull out of the deal and impose new sanctions on Iran.

He said the new crews were Indian and Ukrainian nationals hired by the Indian managers of the ship and that his company had not been informed about the supertanker's next destination.

The Grace 1's release comes after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago, setting in motion a growing confrontation between Tehran and the West over its atomic programme.

Iran responded by suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal. By withdrawing from it, he unilaterally reimposed US sanctions against Iran, hobbling its economy in a so far unsuccessful effort to force Iran to negotiate a new deal.

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