Israeli NGO Sues to Seize Iranian-Controlled Tanker

Royal Marines seize the Grace 1, July 4 (MoD)

Published Jul 16, 2019 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

An Israeli NGO has asked a court in Gibraltar to confiscate and sell the Iranian-controlled tanker Grace 1 in order to satisfy an American court judgement.

In 2017, pro-Israel nonprofit Shurat Hadin won a lawsuit accusing the Iranian and Syrian governments of complicity in the death of an American child who was killed in an attack by Palestinian political party Hamas in 2014. Iran and Syria have provided material support for Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and a U.S. court ruled that Tehran should pay the child's parents nearly $180 million in compensation. 

If sold, the VLCC Grace 1 would bring in less than this amount, but Shurat Hardin told AFP that it would set a useful precedent for the seizure and sale of Iranian assets in foreign jurisdictions. 

Shurat Hadin has sued in multiple nations in an attempt to recover a portion of judgements against Iran. Notably, it filed suit Monday in a French court to confiscate Iranian funds passing through INSTEX, the EU-backed trading mechanism that was set up to bypass American sanctions on Iranian financial transactions. On behalf of multiple families affected by terrorist attacks, Shurat Hadin asked the court to order that all money, oil or other goods belonging to Iran or earmarked for Iran will be paid as compensation to victims or their relatives. 

UK Royal Marines seized the Grace 1 on July 4 as she passed through waters near Gibraltar. The ship's master and chief mate have been charged with violating EU sanctions on Syria (not U.S. sanctions on Iran) by attempting to deliver oil to the Syrian government-controlled refinery in Baniyas. Last weekend, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he had offered to facilitate the vessel's release if Britain receives guarantees from Iran that the tanker will not go to Syria, "following due process in [Gibraltar's] courts."