DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Greek shipper has pleaded guilty to a charge over it smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine, U.S. federal court papers seen Thursday by The Associated Press show.
Empire Navigation agreed to be put on corporate probation under the plea agreement, according to the federal court filings.
The charge stems from the saga over the oil tanker Suez Rajan, which has become mired in the wider tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic even as Tehran and Washington work toward a trade of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea for the release of five Iranian Americans held in Tehran. Iran has been trying to evade sanctions and continue selling its oil abroad, while the U.S. and its allies have been seizing cargoes since 2019 after the country’s nuclear deal allowing the trade collapsed.
The saga over the Suez Rajan began in February 2022, when the group United Against Nuclear Iran said it suspected the tanker carried oil from Iran’s Khargh Island, its main oil distribution terminal in the Persian Gulf.
For months, the ship sat in the South China Sea off the northeast coast of Singapore before suddenly sailing for the Gulf of Mexico without explanation. The vessel discharged its cargo to another tanker, which released its oil in Houston, Texas, in recent days. The court documents seen Thursday show the U.S. government seized the oil.