Greece Authorizes Release Of Iranian-Flagged Oil Tanker Seized In April
By RFE/RL July 02, 2022
Greece said on July 2 that an Iranian-flagged tanker seized by Athens in April was being towed to the port of Piraeus following a decision by a Greek judicial panel to release the vessel.
The Lana has been anchored off the Greek island of Evia for the past two months in a diplomatic standoff that has strained relations between Athens and Tehran.
The vessel was seized by Greek authorities on April 15 when it anchored off the port of Karystos on Evia. At the time, it was flying a Russian flag and was carrying a crew of 19 Russians.
The Greek Coast Guard said it was seized over suspicions it had breached EU sanctions imposed against Russia due to the war in Ukraine.
The oil on the ship was confiscated by the United States and transferred to another vessel.
It was unclear whether the oil was seized because it was Iranian oil subject to U.S. sanctions or whether it was due to sanctions on the tanker, which recently changed its name from Pegas to Lana and which has been flying the Iranian flag since May 1.
A source at Greece's Shipping Ministry quoted by Reuters said the U.S. Department of Justice had "informed Greece that the cargo on the vessel is Iranian oil."
The decision to seize the ship was overturned on June 10, but it remained anchored over claims by another company over debts owed for towing services.
The ship was eventually released after the debt was paid off, Reuters quoted legal sources as saying.
The Greek judicial panel overturned the ruling that had allowed the United States to seize the cargo, but it was not immediately clear if the Lana would attempt to retrieve the oil.
The incident prompted Iranian forces in May to seize two Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf and sail them back to Iran, with Tehran warning of "punitive action" against Athens. They are still being held.
Greece's Foreign Ministry protested to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the "violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships" in the Persian Gulf. "These acts effectively amount to acts of piracy," it said.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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