CHICAGO: The US Justice Department on Wednesday accused the Iranian government of falsifying documents in an attempt to ship Iranian oil to China on a Greek-owned tanker, in violation of US sanctions
A forfeiture complaint was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the oil on Liberian-flagged vessel the M/T Achilleas was falsely described as originating in Iraq.
US officials said that the oil had been transferred from several other ships to disguise its origins as part of a scheme by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force to covertly ship it to international customers.
“The forfeiture complaint filed today serves as a reminder that the IRGC and (Quds Force) continue to exert significant control over the sale of Iranian oil,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
“As we have demonstrated in the past, the department will deploy all tools at its disposal to ensure that the IRGC and (Quds Force) cannot use profits from the sale of Iranian oil to fund terrorism and other activities that threaten the safety and security of all Americans.”
The complaint alleges that a number of entities worked together in an attempt to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents and other means, and that a fraudulent bill of lading — a document detailing the contents of a shipment — was provided to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into accepting the oil.
The complaint alleges in part that the oil is the property of, or a “source of influence” over, the IRGC and the Quds Force, both of which are designated by the US as foreign terrorist organizations. The court documents allege that profits from oil sales are used to support IRGC activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, support for terrorism, and a variety of human-rights abuses at home and abroad.
“The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will continue working with our law-enforcement partners to stem the flow of illicit oil from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force,” said Acting US Attorney Michael R. Sherwin.
“We will use all available tools, including our jurisdiction, to seize and forfeit assets located abroad, to combat funding for terrorists and those who would do harm to the US.”
The FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office is leading the investigation into Iranian oil shipments. If the charges are upheld, the profits from the confiscated cargo will go to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
“Iran uses profits from its petroleum sector to fund the malign activities of the (Quds Force), a designated terrorist group,” said Michael F. Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “The FBI will continue to prioritize the enforcement of sanctions, and we applaud the efforts of our agents and partners on this investigation.”
Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York said the investigation sends the message that any attempted circumvention of US sanctions by the IRGC and its Quds Force will not be tolerated.
“HSI will continue to work with our partners and utilize the full scope of our authorities to disrupt the attempts of hostile countries and regimes to generate profits from oil sales (that are) used to support terrorism and the proliferation and delivery of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.