US federal prosecutors are struggling to sell off a shipment of stolen Iranian oil being carried by a Greek tanker off the coast of Texas, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The US Justice Department seized the Greek tanker Suez Rajan in April under the pretext of sanctions enforcement and forced the ship to head for Texas instead of China. The Suez Rajan is carrying 800,000 barrels of stolen oil and is currently off the coast of Galveston.
According to the Journal, the US can’t sell the oil because the companies that would unload the oil are worried about Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf.
"Companies with any exposure whatsoever in the Persian Gulf are literally afraid to do it," a Houston-based energy executive involved in the matter told the paper.
The executive said that several companies contacted about the oil declined to unload the cargo. After the US stole the Iranian oil shipment, Iran seized two tankers in the Persian Gulf, which was likely retaliation.
Since then, the US has announced several measures to increase its military presence in the region to prevent more Iranian seizures in the Persian Gulf that it provoked in the first place.
Fresh threats from Iran over the Suez Rajan tanker and its oil off Galveston...
🇮🇷 A commander of #Iran’s IRGC navy warns on state television that Iran will hold any company that unloads the cargo of crude from the Marshall Islands-flagged Suez Rajan tanker that the US seized in April, accountable, just as it does the US. #oott pic.twitter.com/M9bO8sVpTX— Nader Itayim | نادر ایتیّم (@ncitayim) July 20, 2023
The US has a history of seizing tankers and stealing Iranian cargo. In 2021, the Biden administration sold off two million barrels of Iranian oil taken from a tanker that was seized off the coast of the UAE.
During the Trump administration, the US seized ships carrying Iranian gas bound for Venezuela and discharged some of the cargo in New York.