(Photo credit: Mizan News Agency/WANA Handout via REUTERS)
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on 31 October captured a foreign vessel in the Persian Gulf that was reportedly smuggling 11 million liters of stolen Iranian crude.
According to the Chief Justice of Hormozgan Province, Mojtaba Ghahremani, the captain and crew of the unnamed vessel have been taken into custody to complete the investigation and begin legal proceedings.
“The criminal actions of fuel smugglers who, in coordination with foreigners, attempt to plunder national funds will not remain hidden from … the judicial system and law enforcement officers, and the punishment for the perpetrators of such crimes will be decisive and without tolerance,” Ghahremani added in a statement to media.
Due to heavy subsidies, Iran has one of the world’s lowest fuel prices and has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighboring countries and by sea to Gulf Arab states, where it is reloaded and sold to other countries.
In mid-September the IRGC revealed that, since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (21 March), its forces confiscated 1,555,000 liters of diesel in the Persian Gulf, arresting dozens of smugglers.
In October of 2021, the IRGC launched a special operation in the Persian Gulf to seize a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker – named ‘Sothys’ – that was reportedly being used by the US to steal Iranian oil.
According to the IRGC account, on 25 October of last year, the US navy confiscated a cargo of Iranian oil in the strategic Gulf of Oman, transferring the crude to the Sothys.
Soon after, the IRGC staged a maritime operation against the vessel in question, landing helicopters on its deck and confronting several US warships.
Despite the flagrant theft of its oil, on top of crushing US sanctions, Iran has seen a surge in revenue from fuel and petrochemical exports this year. Tehran has also bolstered energy cooperation with other nations besieged by western sanctions, such as Russia and Venezuela.