In Snub to US, Freed Iranian Tanker Heads Toward Greece

The renamed Adrian Aryra 1 super tanker hoists an Iranian flag on Sunday as it sails away from Gibraltar, which rejected the United States’ request not to release it. (AP photo/Marcos Moreno)

(CN) – An Iranian oil tanker the United States has accused of skirting sanctions against Syria has set sail from Gibralter, after the U.S. was unsuccessful in its efforts to keep the ship in port over the weekend.

The Grace 1 oil tanker, now sailing under the name Adrian Darya 1, is moving east across the Mediterranean Sea and is expected to arrive in Greece early next week, according to the ship-tracking website Marinetraffic.com.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, confirmed Sunday night that the ship had left Gibralter.

“The overwhelming attention of global and regional politicians and public opinion reflects the important political, international and legal consequences of the actions taken in these few days,” Baeidinejad wrote on Twitter.

British authorities detained the ship in Gibralter on July 4, saying it was being used to violate European Union sanctions on Syria. U.S. prosecutors last week said the ship was heading to Syria later in the month, and authorities in Gibralter said there was significant evidence the oil from the ship would end up in the hands of the Assad regime.

Iran has denied that the ship was charting a course for Syria.

In a 20-page federal forfeiture complaint unsealed Friday in Washington, the United States says the ship had been near an Iranian port that is used as a loading and unloading point for oil shipments when it turned off its identification system. In the past he ship also transferred its cargo to another tanker that had sent oil to Syria, according to the complaint.

The United States petitioned Gibralter to keep hold of the ship late last week, but Gibralter said it was powerless to do so. In a statement Sunday, the Gibralter Central Authority said sanctions against Iran are “much narrower” in the European Union than in the United States, making the request impossible.

“In these circumstances, although the additional information provided on 16 August 2019 does create a closer nexus with those elements of the EU sanctions regime against Iran that are still active, we the Central Authority do not consider that such a nexus is sufficient to establish that the offenses set out in the U.S. request come within the definition of criminal conduct for the purposes of Gibralter laws,” the Gibralter Central Authority said in a statement Sunday.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on how the weekend’s developments would impact the still-pending forfeiture case.

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