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Gibraltar police arrest captain and officer of detained Iran tanker

Iran has demanded that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it detained in Gibraltar [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 11 July, 2019

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Gibraltar police have arrested the Indian captain and chief officer of the Iranian oil tanker that was seized off its coast last week.

Gibraltar police have arrested the Indian captain and chief officer of a seized Iranian tanker suspected of breaching EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria, Royal Gibraltar Police said Thursday.

"This follows a protracted search of the vessel where documents and electronic devices have been seized and examined," police said in a statement.

Gibraltar police are interviewing both men, who have "been accorded their legal entitlements and access to consular representation", it added.

Gibraltar forces and British marines boarded the ship, Grace 1, and seized it on 4 July off the coast of Gibraltar, saying they believed it to be destined for Syria to deliver oil, which is subject to European sanctions.

Tests have shown the 330 metre (1,000 feet) tanker which is capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was "carrying a full load of crude oil", the government of Gibraltar said Monday.

Iran has condemned the detention as an "illegal interception" and said the tanker was not headed to Syria.

The arrests come after London said earlier on Thursday that armed Iranian boats tried to "impede" a UK supertanker in the Gulf before being warned off by a British warship.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied involvement but also cautioned both the US and UK that they would "strongly regret" the British Royal Marines' detention of the Grace 1.

Gibraltar police said the investigation was still on-going and the tanker remained detained.

Tracking data showed that the tanker made a slow trip around the southern tip of Africa before reaching the Mediterranean. It is thought to be transporting crude from Iran to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria. 

The refinery is under the control of Bashar al-Assad-linked authorities and subject to the EU's Syrian Sanctions Regime. The EU, and others, have imposed sanctions on Assad's regime over its continued crackdown against civilians. They currently target 270 people and 70 entities.

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