In February 2021, the US seized the MT Achilleas, a Liberia-flagged ship, operated by a Greek company, loaded to the brim with Iranian crude oil.
By March it had already sold the oil.
The Achilleas’ Greek owner, Capital Ship Management Corp., alerted U.S. authorities to the possibility it had unknowingly taken on Iranian crude, after initially believing it came from Iraq. The vessel was fully loaded and can carry more than 2 million barrels, according to shipping documents.
The U.S. government brought the Achilleas to Houston, Texas, where it sold the just over 2 million barrels of crude oil within it for $110 million, or at around $55 a barrel, court documents show. The money will be held in escrow amid a court case over it.
The Iranian crude oil showed up in new figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, raising the eyebrows of commodities traders as Tehran remains targeted by a series of American sanctions. The EIA figures included just over 1 million barrels of Iranian “crude oil imports” in March.
The United States last recorded Iranian crude and petroleum imports of 3,000 barrels per day for October 2020, EIA data showed, also oil Washington had seized under its sanctions programme.
Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed that the Achilleas discharged its cargo at the U.S. Gulf port of Galveston in March.
The seizure was in line with tough economic sanctions imposed by Washington on Tehran over its nuclear programme and the U.S. designation of a number of Iranian groups and institutions as terrorist organizations. Iran rejects U.S. accusations of wrongdoing.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he had “no details” about it.
“Since the time of the former U.S. president, Mr. Bill Clinton, no oil has been purchased from Iran because of their laws,” Khatibzadeh said.
At the height of trade with Iran, in July 1977, the U.S. imported some 26.5 million barrels of crude oil from Iran, then under the rule of the American-allied Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran saw those sales plummet to zero in the months that followed.
The United States simply took the Iranian crude oil, then immediately sold it off and now is having a court case to decide where to use the profits from it. Nothing to see here.
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