They seized the cargo as being directly linked to organizations it describes as terrorist.
A strange, complex case, starring the Marinaki family, US authorities and Iranian terrorist organizations saw the light of day earlier this year. A tanker of the shipping company Marinaki was caught by the USA transporting 2 million barrels of Iranian oil, in violation of the American law against terrorism. According to the official documents of the American investigation, the income from the goods worth millions of dollars would end up in the pockets of terrorists. Behind the cargo and among a complex set of companies, ships and forged documents lies the Army of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran and its affiliates, which the United States has officially designated as terrorist organizations. A serious question that has arisen is how such a large shipping company as the Marinaki group did not know the true identity of the showcase company with which it collaborated to transport the oil.
The story began to unfold on January 26, 2021, when the Bloomberg news agency published a report in which it referred to an attempt by the American authorities to seize more than 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from the tanker “Achilles” of Capital Ship Management Corp. Marinaki family. The same publication said that, according to information, the tanker itself had informed the USA that it was probably transporting oil from Iran, although it considered that it was coming from Iraq. Again, according to information cited by the report, the “Achilles” tracking system had been switched off for several days in January. The news became known in Greece as well, although few media outlets reported it. But let’s look at the facts chronologically, according to the US investigation attached to the announcement issued by the US Department of Justice on February 3.
On February 2, 2021, the USA files in the competent courts a seizure of the cargo of the tanker “Achilles”, interests of the Marinakis family, which sails with a Liberian and not a Greek flag. U.S. officials say the oil came from Iran and is linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates (IRGC Quds Force – IRGCQF). Proceeds from the sale of oil would return to the ches
tell terrorist organizations, always according to the Americans, to support their illegal activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, other terrorist plans, human rights abuses, etc.
Investigations by the HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) show that the barrels loaded by Marinakis’s tanker came from oil terminals in Iran. The barrels were originally loaded on two Suezmax tankers affiliated with the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and the US-designated IRGC-QF terrorist organization. They used fake documents, shadow media and techniques to hide the original source of the oil and ultimately benefit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its affiliates.
How the business was done
Sometime on May 29, 2020, the tanker “Sarak” loaded at the oil terminal of the island of Siri in Iran part of the barrels that were finally confiscated by the tanker “Achilles”. The ship is listed as a member of the large network of ships managed by the IRGC-QF and former Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi. The same is confirmed by a confidential source.
On June 23, 2020, another tanker, the Sonia I, loaded another portion of the cargo found at Achilles from an oil terminal on the Iranian island of Hark in the Persian Gulf. And this ship ended up through a network belonging to NITC and was already on the American red lists.
On the same day, the Iranian-flagged super tanker “Humanity” steals the data and the automatic identification system (AIS) of the ship “Lubov”. To falsify the AIS means that it can retransmit false data about the ship in which it is actually located, such as its name, location, etc. “Humanity” had already closed its own AIS on June 12, with the last point of reference being the Gulf of Oman. What does the real “Lubov” do? On June 26 and 27 he loads the oil from the two ships (“Sarak”, “Sonia I”). The process was completed on June 28 with the “Lubov” sailing to the Gulf of Oman where the “Humanity” was located and the AIS of the two ships returning to reality.
From July 1 to August 18, the “Lubov” was simply anchored in the Gulf of Oman without loading or unloading other goods. Starting around August 19, it unloads all the oil in the tanker with the Pan-American flag “Trident Liberty”. The transfer is said to have been completed within five days. “Trident Liberty” then reported that it was fully loaded with 2 million barrels, a quantity received by the tanker “Lubov”.
This is how we get to October 14, 2020, when the company that manages the tanker “Achilles” enters into a contract with the alleged charter company Fujairah International Oil and Gas Company (FIOGC). This company is managed by Benchmark Ship Management. According to the US document, this is a showcase company set up by the IRGC-QF to smuggle Iranian oil. FIOGC had run the business for them. All this takes place in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, in the port of Fujairah.
The agreement therefore stipulates the transfer of “light crude oil from the Iraqi port of Basra to China”. The FIOGC provides false documents to the Marinaki interest company that the “Lubov” was loaded with barrels of oil from Iraq’s second largest city. On November 4, “Trident Liberty” begins to upload the entire amount of oil to the tanker “Achilles”. The process was completed on the 17th of the same month.
On December 20, the business director of Capital Ship Management, Prokopis Iliou, contacted Al Bahar Marine Services LLC and the person in charge of the “Achilles” charterer, requesting “urgent confirmation and arrangements with the Fujairah Port Authority, the head of the port” “To leave without further delay and failure.”
The charterer’s manager informed the “Achilles” manager of two things. First, that he should receive instructions from the charter company to arrange the departure of the tanker. Secondly, that the Marinaki side should contact the charterer in order to instruct the manager to issue a departure permit. A series of emails followed. So we arrived on February 2, the day on which the US issued the complaint of seizure of the 2 million barrels of “Achilles”.
Transportation of Iranian oil again
It is noted that in the past, tankers of interests of the Marinakis shipping group have loaded and transported oil from terminals in Iran. This seems to have upset and even irritated the American authorities, especially in 2020, when the relevant ban of the Trump administration was already in force. At the same time, several European countries have complied with US sanctions against Iran.
According to reports, the “Achilles” was the tanker that first brought in April 2016 the first Iranian crude oil cargo in Greece and specifically in the refineries of ELPE. The cargo involved about 1 million barrels of Iranian crude, although the supply was not made directly by the Iranian oil company NIOC but through the French Total, from which the tanker of Greek interests was chartered. At that time, the problems with the restrictions that still apply to banking with Iran were not resolved. According to ifmat.org, which is said to be run by Iranian groups opposed to Tehran’s theocratic regime, several Greek shipowners are said to be involved in smuggling oil from Iran to the rest of Asia despite current US sanctions.
The answer of the Marinaki side
Documento addressed the Marinakis side asking a series of questions, for which, however, we did not receive specific answers. However, according to legal sources of the Marinaki side, there is nothing reprehensible in this case. According to the same sources in the newspaper, the American authorities did not impose any sanctions on the companies of the Marinakis group.
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