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US issues warrant to seize Grace 1

The US Justice Department unveiled a warrant on Friday for the seizure of the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1, one day after a Gibraltar judge allowed the release of the detained vessel.

The warrant says the vessel, all the oil aboard and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism forfeiture statutes.

An Iranian tanker whose detention exacerbated friction between Tehran and the West could sail free from British territory Gibraltar on Friday, though a US request to halt its passage could drag the saga back into court.

The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marine commandos in darkness at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the decision to lift the detention order came after written assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge its oil in Syria.

Picardo said the US could still begin a new legal procedure for seizing the Grace 1, but that provisions under the European Union’s sanctions regulations were ending on Thursday.

Iran denied commitments in exchange for tanker release saying the vessel was not destined for Syria in the first place.

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