US offered millions to Iranian tanker captain to hand over ship

A U.S. official offered several million dollars to the captain of an Iranian oil tanker reportedly heading to Syria.

The State Department confirmed to The Hill that Brian Hook, head of the Iran Action Group, emailed the captain of the Adrian Darya 1 about sailing the tanker out of its course so the U.S. could seize the ship.

The tanker in question was suspected of carrying oil to Syria and was impounded in July by U.K. authorities in Gibraltar.

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The Financial Times on Wednesday first reported on Hook’s email offering “good news” of millions of dollars to the ship’s captain. The State Department has since confirmed the report.

“We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate,” a spokesperson for the State Department told The Hill. “We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The tanker was held in Gibraltar for six weeks due to suspicions it was headed to Syria, a violation of European Union (EU) sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Gibraltar released the ship last month following assurances the tanker was not headed to countries sanctioned by the E.U., though the U.S. protested the decision.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made light of the reported attempt to give large amounts of money to the ship captain.

“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail—deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” he tweeted. “Sounds very similar to the Oval Office invitation I received a few weeks back.”

Akhilesh Kumar, the captain of the tanker, reportedly did not respond to the U.S.’s offer of millions in exchange for changing the ship’s course.

The Treasury Department last week imposed sanctions both on the ship and Kumar, freezing any assets he may have in the U.S. and criminalizing any financial transactions with him.

Updated: 4 p.m.

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