The United States government recently took action against several companies involved in an oil smuggling network tied to Iran. The U.S. has seized a Russian-operated oil tanker near Greece and is transporting the Iranian oil it had on board to the United States.
The U.S. had been monitoring the vessel since February. The Russian-flagged ship’s name was changed from the Pegas to Lana during that time. In August 2021, the U.S. accused the vessel of carrying 700,000 barrels of Iranian oil onto its cargo. China was the recipient of most of the oil that the tanker transported.
According to the Maritime-Executive, Greece detained the Russian crew of the Pegas on April 15 under the belief that the Russian bank PSB controlled the vessel. The bank was one of the institutions sanctioned by the U.S. and European Union because of the invasion of Ukraine.
The tanker arrived off Greece early in April with a possible mechanical failure and asked for assistance to make repairs to continue their voyage. At the time, Greek officials thought the tanker was carrying sanctioned Russian oil.
The crew was let go days later after Greece did not believe it had the authority to detain them. Greece also discovered that PSB did not control the vessel, but another Russian company, Transmorflot, did.
Neither the U.S. nor Russia have provided any statements at this time in reference to the incident. The seizure of the tanker and oil comes as tensions continue to remain high amid nuclear deal talks.
Greece asserts that the U.S. notified them that the oil came from Iran and that the U.S. hired another ship to transport the oil to the United States.
“The seizure came at the request of the Americans because the cargo came from a sanctioned country and moved on a sanctioned ship,” a Greek official told Dow Jones Tuesday morning. “The oil is being moved to another tanker which will sail to the U.S.”
Iran issued a demand for an explanation from Greece’s charge d’affaires, describing the incident as “a blatant example of piracy.”