Tehran, Iran – Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has seized the crew and cargo of a foreign ship that was carrying 11 million litres (2.9m gallons) of smuggled fuel, according to a local judiciary official.
The judiciary chief of the southern province of Hormozgan, Mojtaba Ghahremani, announced on Monday that the IRGC’s naval force confiscated the unnamed vessel in the waters of the Gulf.
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“The captain and crew of this foreign tanker are also detained as investigations and legal procedures are being completed,” he said in a video message released by the semi-official Tasnim news website, while flanked by IRGC and judiciary personnel on the ship’s deck.
The nationality of the vessel or its crew was not announced, but Ghahremani said the value of its cargo amounted to 2.2 trillion rials (about $6.6m).
Tasnim also released a clip that showed the smuggled fuel on the tanker.
“All vessels which have delivered fuel to the violating tanker will also be subject to prosecution,” the judiciary official said.
Ghahremani said the arrested smugglers will be slapped with a financial penalty of up to 10 times the value of the confiscated cargo in addition to receiving jail sentences, while the vessel will be seized in favour of the Iranian government.
He also described the bust as a “major blow” to organised fuel smuggling operations in Iran’s southern waters, which is believed to be lucrative due to Iran’s allocation of fuel subsidies and the country’s cheap currency.
The IRGC has in recent years ramped up its efforts against smuggling and from, time to time, announces seizures of cargo carried by foreign vessels while mostly refraining from disclosing which countries the vessels and crew belong to.
But the quantity of the confiscated fuel announced on Monday appeared to be larger than usual. By comparison, another vessel that was announced seized last month was said to be carrying 757,000 litres (200,000 gallons) of fuel.