OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
1:45 PM – Thursday, September 7, 2023
U.S. authorities seized almost one million barrels of Iranian oil that officials claim were illegally smuggled to China earlier this year, according to recent court records.
Newly unsealed U.S. court documents posted on Thursday revealed that Empire Navigation, a Greek shipping business, has pleaded guilty to smuggling Iranian crude oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine.
The now-public lawsuit against the Greek company, which must serve three years of probation, is the first time that American prosecutors seized almost 1 million barrels of oil from the crude oil ship Suez Rajan.
Earlier this year, the U.S. seized M/T Suez Rajan, which led to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s own efforts to seize two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
According to court filings, assertions from U.S. prosecutors showed that Iran forged the vessel’s cargo records and halted its location from being correctly tracked.
Since the original seizure occurred in the spring of this year, Rajan has remained off the coast of Texas.
Iran threatened to hold Washington, D.C., accountable if the cargo was offloaded.
Therefore, no American corporation agreed to remove the barrels since they were afraid of retaliation from Tehran, the capital of Iran.
As a result, another vessel was deployed to finish the offloading procedure by Empire Navigation, which was in charge of the Rajan.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) collectively made the decision to keep quiet about the operation until all of the oil had been discharged from the vessel.
“Given the nature of the cargo, the sensitivity of this action, and the time it was expected to take to transport the cargo to the United States, revelation of this action was likely to cause security risks to the defendants, the government, as well as the vessel and its crew members,” the DOJ wrote in a filing.
The Greek shipping company has now pleaded guilty to smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil and has been fined $2.4 million. The company will reportedly face three years of probation.
The Strait of Hormuz, a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, has remained a highly controversial area between the U.S. Navy and Iranian forces.
In late August, Iran alleged to have carried out an “intercept” against a U.S. Navy vessel, however the U.S. described that no such incident occurred. Iran posted highly-edited footage that showed fast attack vessels “intercepting” USS Bataan and USS Thomas on August 17th.
“That report is not true. So I don’t know where that’s coming from, but we’ve seen this from them before pushing out, I don’t know if it’s propaganda, but I would say untrue statements, and that just is not accurate,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh explained to Fox News Digital in a statement.
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