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17th August 2019, 09:44

US Justice Department issues warrant for Grace 1 to be seized

The United States Justice Department has issued a warrant to seize the Grace 1 for “unlawful use” of the US financial system to support and finance the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s sale of oil products to Syria. 

The Supertanker, which had been detained in Gibraltar waters since last month, was released on Thursday by the Gibraltar Government, despite an eleventh hour request by the US Department of Justice.  The Chief Justice at Gibraltar's Supreme Court said there had been no application relating to US letters of request.

The Revocation Order for Grace 1 came following the hearing, after the Gibraltar Government said it had received assurances from Iran that the Grace 1 would not sail to countries subject to European Union Sanctions.

The Chief Minister said on Thursday the US Department of Justice's request for the detention of the Grace 1 vessel is a matter for independent Mutual Legal Assistance authorities

The warrant was issued by a US Federal Court in Washington on Friday, and is addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer".

It calls for the Grace 1, all the petroleum on board and just under a million dollars held in an unnamed US Bank relating to a Iranian Company called Paradise Global Trading LLC, to be seized.

The justice department says the ship and the firm have been involved in violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud, money laundering and terrorism forfeiture statutes.

The Federal Prosecutor claims a "network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments", adding the parties involved are linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US regards as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The Grace 1 has now been re-registered with the name 'Adrian Darya' under the Iranian flag.  Although it has shifted its position, it has yet to leave Gibraltar Waters as the supertanker is reportedly in need of repairs, and it's alleged the Captain no longer wishes to keep command.  Any delay to the ship's departure could provide a window of opportunity for the US to mount further legal action in Gibraltar.