US Records Second Oil ‘Import’ From Iran in 30 Years From Seized Tanker

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
June 1, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2021

A cargo of 1.033 million barrels of crude oil from a seized Iranian tanker landed on U.S. shores in March, showing up as an “import” in data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the second shipment of Iranian oil to be brought into the United States since 1991.

The cargo was registered in last week’s EIA data, which recorded it as “crude oil imports” for March, though it came from the seized Liberian-flagged tanker Achilleas, which was transporting Iranian crude when it was taken over by the United States in February off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

The EIA previously recorded 1.1 million barrels of Iranian crude and petroleum imports in October 2020, also oil Washington had seized under its sanctions. Prior to that, the last time the United States imported oil from Iran was 30 years ago.

U.S. court documents (pdf) allege the Achilleas was subject to forfeiture under American anti-terrorism statutes on grounds that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard—designated as a terrorist organization under the Trump administration—tried to use the vessel to sell crude oil to China in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The documents claim that profits from oil sales support the Revolutionary Guard’s “full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” the Justice Department said in a release.

“As we have demonstrated in the past, the department will deploy all tools at its disposal to ensure that the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the IRGC-QF [IRGC-Qods 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,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the DOJ’s National Security Division said in a statement in February.

The Associated Press reported that the Achilleas was transported to Houston, Texas, where the U.S. government sold the oil for $110 million, with the money held in escrow while the forfeiture-related court case continues.

The DOJ said that funds successfully forfeited in connection to a state sponsor of terrorism may be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the case concludes.

When asked Monday about the case, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he had “no details” about it, The Associated Press reported. “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, according to the outlet.

Iran has been in talks with world powers since April, seeking to negotiate an end to the sanctions.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'