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US-pursued oil tanker to sell off £100m crude to 'unnamed' buyer

The 2.1 million barrels of crude oil aboard a tanker pursued by the US has been sold to an unnamed buyer, an Iranian government spokesman has said.

The Adrian Darya, previously known as the Grace 1, was held for weeks off Gibraltar after being seized by authorities there on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on Syria.

Ali Rabiei made the announcement at news conference on Monday, adding that the buyer of the oil will decide the ship’s ultimate destination.

The United States has a federal court warrant to seize the ship and has been warning nations not to accept it into port.

The ship had set its destination as Turkey, but later removed it. It is still in the Mediterranean Sea heading east.

Its cargo is worth some £106 million.

The tanker’s detention and later release by Gibraltar has fuelled the growing tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

In the time since, Iran lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the deal as the US re-imposed and created sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude oil aboard, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.

In US federal court documents, authorities allege the Adrian Grace’s true owner is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organisation answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US declared the Guard a foreign terror organisation in April, the first time America named a military force of a nation as such, giving it the legal power to issue a warrant for the vessel’s seizure. However, that would require another nation to acknowledge the writ.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to hold the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which it seized in a commando-style raid July 19 after the taking of the Adrian Darya.

Analysts suggested the release of the Adrian Darya would see the Stena Impero let go, but that has yet to happen.

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