July 11 (UPI) — The Royal Gibraltar Police said they have arrested the captain and chief officer of a tanker seized last week on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
The Indian nationals were arrested Thursday and granted access to legal representation. Neither has been charged, the Gibraltar Chronicle reported.
Police and Customs officers interviewed both men under caution at police headquarters.
The arrests followed “a protracted search” of the Grace 1 supertanker during which documents and electronic devices were seized and examined, the RGP said in a statement.
The arrests were made in relation to EU Regulations 36/2012 that applies restrictive measures to Syria in view of the situation there.
The 300,000-ton Grace 1 was detained last Thursday in British waters off the Gibraltar coast in suspicion of violating EU sanctions, attracting swift condemnation from Iran, who admitted the vessel was transporting Persian oil, and demands that it be released or there would be consequences.
On Thursday, five Iranian gunboats attempted to detain the British Heritage tanker in the Strait of Hormuz but backed down following a warning from the British warship HMS Montrose, which was less than 5 miles in its wake when it was approached.
Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, dismissed the Pentagon’s claims that Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy attempted to seize the British vessel as “worthless,” Iran’s semi-official Fars News reported.
“Naval patrols of the Guards Corps in the Persian Gulf continue vigilantly, precisely and strongly based on regular procedure and mission, and during the last 24 hours there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including the British ones,” the IRGC Fifth Zone said in a statement Thursday.
Tensions have been high between Iran and the Western world following several attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf in the past two months. The United States has repeatedly blamed Iran for those attacks while Iran has repeatedly rebuffed the charges.