Iran on Monday published that the 2.1 million barrels of crude aboard an Iranian oil tanker pursued by the U.S. has been sold to an unknown buyer as the ship, at the center of a crisis roiling the region, sustained its tour in the Mediterranean Sea.
The announcement by government spokesman Ali Rabiei represents just the new twist in the saga of the Adrian Darya 1, which had been known as the Grace 1 when authorities seized the vessel off Gibraltar on July 4, on suspicion of breaking European Union sanctions concentrating on Syria.
The capture of the ship and Iran’s after the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker came between heightened pressures between the U.S. and Iran over the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Speaking to journalists Monday in Tehran, Rabiei refused to name the oil’s buyer, nor terms for sale. At market rates, the crude oil aboard the Adrian Darya would be worth about $130 million. However, anyone buying it could be targeted by U.S. financial sanctions.
The Adrian Darya’s detention and later release by Gibraltar have added fuel to the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago over concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional influence.
In the time since, Iran has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the agreement, as the U.S. re-imposed and escalated sanctions mainly blocking Tehran from selling crude abroad, a vital supply of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.
In U.S. federal court documents, authorities allege the Adrian Darya’s valid proprietor is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The U.S. declared the Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization in April, the first time America named a military force of a nation as such.
The Adrian Darya initially put its intended destination as Kalamata, Greece, and later as Mersin, Turkey. The State Department has pressured nations not to support the vessel. Authorities in Gibraltar rejected attempts by the U.S. to seize the oil tanker, arguing that EU regulations are less strict than U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tehran warned Washington towards any effort to grab the vessel soon after its release from the British territory.