HSE & Sustainability

US Announces First Criminal Resolution Involving Sale and Transport of Iranian Oil in Violation of Sanctions

The US Department of Justice also announced the seizure of almost 1 million bbl of Iranian crude oil.

Iranian oil fuel energy concept. Flag of Iran on barrels
Source: Bet Noire/Getty Images

The US Department of Justice announced the successful disruption of a multimillion-dollar shipment of crude oil by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, that was bound for another country. This is the first criminal resolution involving a company that violated sanctions by facilitating the illicit sale and transport of Iranian oil and comes in concert with a successful seizure of more than 980,000 bbl of contraband crude oil.

According to court documents, on 19 April, Suez Rajan Ltd. pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. On that same date, the company was sentenced by US District Court Judge Carl J. Nichols for the District of Columbia to 3 years of corporate probation and a fine of almost $2.5 million. In addition, pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement and a seizure warrant issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Empire Navigation, the operating company of the vessel carrying the contraband cargo, agreed to cooperate and transport the Iranian oil to the United States—an operation that has now concluded. Empire Navigation incurred the significant expenses associated with the vessel’s voyage to the United States.

The contraband cargo is now the subject of a civil forfeiture action in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The United States’ forfeiture complaint alleges that the oil aboard the vessel is subject to forfeiture based on US terrorism and money laundering statutes.

The complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s IRGC and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly sell and transport Iranian oil to a customer abroad. Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, false automatic identification system reporting, falsified documents, and other means. The complaint further alleges that the charterer of the vessel used the US financial system to facilitate the transportation of Iranian oil.

The complaint further alleges that the oil constitutes the property of, or provided a “source of influence” over, the IRGC and the IRGC-QF, both of which have been designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations, and that the oil facilitated money laundering. The documents allege that profits from oil sales support the IRGC’s full range of malign activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and both domestic and international human rights abuses.

Funds successfully forfeited with a connection to a state sponsor of terrorism may in whole or in part be directed to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund .

A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation. The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government.