4 of 24 Indians on board seized Iranian oil tanker to face prosecution
Twenty crew members, currently on board the vessel, are not facing any formal charges and the Mumbai-based shipping company that hired them is making arrangements for their return, the people cited above said.Updated: Jul 31, 2019 22:06 IST
Some of the 24 Indian crew members of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, currently detained at Gibraltar, will have to face the judicial process for violating European Union sanctions while a majority is expected to be repatriated soon, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.
Twenty crew members, currently on board the vessel, are not facing any formal charges and the Mumbai-based shipping company that hired them is making arrangements for their return, the people cited above said.
Four of the crew, including the captain, will have to face the judicial process in a court in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, as they were formally charged after the detention of the vessel, the people said. This could delay their release, they added.
The Royal Marines facilitated the boarding of Grace 1 by Gibraltar police on July 4 as it was suspected to be carrying oil for a refinery in Syria subject to EU sanctions, UK high commissioner Dominic Asquith said.
“It is not for us to release the Indian crew on Grace 1. The Gibraltar authorities have their judicial process which they have to go through,” he said, adding the UK had “no problems” with Iran selling oil but the tanker was carrying two million barrels of crude for an EU-sanctioned entity.
Asquith described the tanker’s boarding as a “completely legitimate act” in line with EU legislation and said the Gibraltar authorities will pursue the case against some crew members.
He ruled out the possibility of Grace 1 being swapped for British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19. “There is no swap going on here,” he said.
Asquith contended the Stena Impero’s seizure was “contrary to international law” and attempts by Iranian authorities to compare the two incidents “couldn’t be further from the truth”. He was sceptical about reports that Grace 1’s Indian captain was unaware of the EU sanctions.
Indians serving on merchant vessels have been caught up in increased tensions in the Persian Gulf following differences between the US and Iran. Besides the 24 Indians on Grace 1, Stena Impero had 18 Indians in its crew.
There were 12 Indians in the crew of Panama-flagged MT Riah, seized by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz on July 14 but nine were subsequently released.
First Published: Jul 31, 2019 19:43 IST