​​​​​​​UANI Statement On the M/T SUEZ RAJAN

U.S. Seizes 980,000 Barrels of Iranian Oil

UANI Issues Warning to Smugglers

(New York, N.Y.) — Today, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) released the following statement on the M/T SUEZ RAJAN.

In early February 2022, UANI’s Tanker Tracking Team began following the M/T SUEZ RAJAN as it loaded illegal Iranian oil from the well-known, Panamanian-flagged Iranian smuggling ship, VIRGO, in the South China Sea. On February 15, 2022, UANI publicly began its effort to seize the SUEZ RAJAN’s cargo and started collaborating with relevant U.S. government authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). On September 8, 2023, the DOJ announced the seizure of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (“IRGC”) oil which represented “the first-ever criminal resolution involving a company that violated sanctions by facilitating the illicit sale and transport of Iranian oil...in concert with a successful seizure of over 980,000 barrels of contraband crude oil.” In the release, the DOJ thanked “United Against Nuclear Iran for its valuable assistance.”

UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace stated: 

“We applaud, with great admiration, U.S. authorities for the successful seizure of the SUEZ RAJAN and the first-ever criminal prosecution of an Iranian oil smuggling operation. Nine hundred eighty thousand barrels of Iranian oil will now be sold to benefit the victims of terror. The tireless effort of all parties involved led to this extraordinary result. Nonetheless, along with our government partners, we must do better. We must ensure the continued and far more expeditious enforcement of sanctions against Iranian oil smugglers. Collectively, we must pursue far more enforcement actions in a time frame faster than the 577 days that this matter took to conclude.  

“Moreover, the United States and its allies must decisively deter Iranian aggression against shipping interests in the Persian Gulf and beyond. It is untenable and a disgrace that the broader shipping industry, despite being far removed in Galveston, Texas, was too intimidated by Iranian threats of violence to assist in the offloading of Iranian oil related to the seizure of the SUEZ RAJAN. The United States must make clear that the continued planning of hostile acts of transnational repression against U.S. persons and any aggressive Iranian actions against commerce in the Persian Gulf will be met with decisive military force.  

“Today, more than 300 other tanker vessels like the SUEZ RAJAN are engaged in illicit oil smuggling. We know where they are. We know who operates them. We know their flag countries. We know their classification societies and their insurers. We know the identities of their captains and crew. We call on every one of them to cease their smuggling activities, and to commence diverting their illicit cargoes to the United States for seizure. You have our phone number and email. We await your call, and we stand ready to work with you. Absent such immediate cooperative action, these parties face severe legal and reputational consequences.

“Notably, those involved in smuggling have a way out. Empire Navigation did the right thing and took the off-ramp from the mob-like industry of Iran’s oil smuggling network. We commend Empire Navigation for its cooperation with UANI and the U.S. government. Unlike those that persist in illicit oil smuggling, Empire’s shipping business will continue to thrive, and their reputation will be rehabilitated. Those companies, captains, and crews that do not follow the example of Empire Navigation should expect to face severe criminal and reputational consequences and the inability to operate in the broader legitimate shipping industry.”  

Specifically, UANI commends and acknowledges the heroic work of:

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Homeland Security Investigations team;
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation;
  • Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stuart D. Allen, Rajbir S. Datta, and Brian Hudak and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Grady; and
  • The many others within the U.S. government who worked tirelessly on this matter.

UANI calls on DHS and DOJ leadership to award all U.S. officials involved with appropriate commendations and citations for their extraordinary service.

UANI further acknowledges and commends the law firm of Winston & Strawn LLP, and specifically Cari Stinebower and Christopher Man. While they served as defense counsel to Empire Navigation, the owners of the SUEZ RAJAN, their knowledge, expertise, and commitment ensured the appropriate resolution of this matter.

In the coming days, UANI will release photographic and video content of its activities around and onboard the SUEZ RAJAN during the seizure proceedings.

Imagery of UANI flag next to the SUEZ RAJAN (Source: United Against Nuclear Iran)

Imagery of the offloading of Iranian oil from the SUEZ RAJAN to MR EUPHRATES (Source: United Against Nuclear Iran)

Below is a timeline of key events and developments that led to the seizure and plea agreement made public last week:

  • On February 15, 2022, UANI identified illicit Iranian oil smuggling through a ship-to-ship transfer to the vessel SUEZ RAJAN. On the same day, UANI informed Oaktree Capital Management, the owners of the vessel at the time of the operation, and the relevant government authorities of the transfer. The vessel immediately was halted off the Riau Archipelago.
  • On February 17, 2022, the Associated Press, among others, publicly reported on UANI’s findings, drawing more attention to the matter. On February 17th, Oaktree said it is “cooperating with U.S. government investigators to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter.”
  • On February 18th, Fleetscape said it is “cooperating fully with the U.S. authorities in a thorough investigation into this matter.” Similarly, the Class Society ABS and the UK P&I Club committed to joining U.S. authorities in investigating the matter.
  • On February 20, 2022, the operator/manager of the SUEZ RAJAN, Empire Navigation, committed to a full investigation of the matter and to fully cooperate with U.S. authorities.
  • On February 24, 2022, UANI called on the owners and managers of the SUEZ RAJAN to announce the results of the review of UANI research revealing Iranian oil smuggling and called for appropriate diversion and seizure of the Iranian oil.
  • On February 25, 2022, UANI provided Fleetscape Suez Rajan LLC and Empire Navigation with information on the operation. UANI also wrote to the Captain of the Suez Rajan and called on him to divert the SUEZ RAJAN to a U.S. port where appropriate enforcement proceedings would administer the smuggled oil.
  • On March 2, 2022, UANI called upon the owners and operators of the SUEZ RAJAN to divert the vessel to a U.S. port for enforcement proceedings and the appropriate administration of the sanctioned Iranian oil.
  • On March 3, 2022, victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks asked a U.S. judge to order the seizure of the sanctioned oil on the SUEZ RAJAN and use the funds from its sale to in part satisfy the $3.61 billion judgement they hold against Iran. The judgement enforcement matter is styled Hoglan et al v. Oaktree Capital Management LP et al, No. 11-07550 (In satisfaction of In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, No. 03-md-01570). On the same day, Fleetscape officials confirmed receipt of UANI’s inquiry and concerns but provided no material update on the matter of the SUEZ RAJAN.
  • Between March 3 – March 10, 2022, UANI and UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace directed various communications and attempts to communicate to the SUEZ RAJAN Captain without success.
  • On March 12, 2022, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said the U.S. seizing tankers failed to stop Iran’s oil exports. “When the enemy realized it could not stop our exports and contracts, they went after our ships,” Owji said.
  • On March 30, 2022, UANI called on Oaktree, Fleetscape, and Empire Navigation to investigate and clarify the activities of additional vessels suspected of engaging in illicit activity.
  • On April 12, 2022, UANI announced that its work to identify and detect rogue vessels engaged in Iranian regime oil and gas smuggling resulted in 100 vessels being stripped of their flags by authorities worldwide.
  • On April 22, 2022, UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace called on Greece to seize the Russian-flagged PEGAS, sanctioned by the United States, and turn the vessel and its Iranian oil over to American authorities.
  • On June 9, 2022, UANI released a new report, Oceans of Deceit: Iran’s Deceptive Shipping Practices and Exploitation of the Maritime Industry.
  • On June 21, 2022, three vessels operated by the IRGC were steered aggressively and in unsafe close proximity to two U.S. vessels operating lawfully in international waters.
  • On July 7, 2022, UANI applauded the Biden Administration for new oil-related sanctions and called for additional action.
  • On August 1, 2022, UANI applauded the Biden Administration’s designation of oil smuggling entities and vessels.
  • On November 28, 2022, UANI’s work to identify and detect vessels engaged in the smuggling of Iranian oil and gas, and to alert maritime authorities of their activities, resulted in the suspension or withdrawal of classification on 100 vessels.
  • On December 21, 2022, UANI’s efforts to stop the illicit sale of Iranian oil and gas by identifying and detecting vessels participating in Tehran’s smuggling activities, and alerting maritime authorities to their activities, led to 100 vessels losing essential insurance coverage through Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs.
  • On January 23, 2023, UANI called on the EU to impose a port ban on Panama-flagged tankers following Panama Maritime Authority's (AMP) inaccurate and deceptive response to charges that it is complicit in the Iranian regime’s schemes to smuggle oil using foreign-flagged vessels.
  • On February 15, 2023, one year after UANI identified the SUEZ RAJAN, it remained laden at sea with approximately one million barrels of Iranian crude oil.
  • On February 22, 2023, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper told reporters on Tuesday that the surge in vessels carrying weapons from Iran and attacks on commercial vessels “has the attention of everyone.” His remarks punctuate global concerns about how Iran threatens freedom of navigation and maritime security around the world.
  • In April 2023, the U.S. reportedly seized the illicit cargo onboard the SUEZ RAJAN. Several additional news outlets covered the matter.
  • In May 2023, the SUEZ RAJAN reached the Gulf of Mexico from the South China Sea, where it had remained since being exposed in February 2022.
  • On May 31, 2023, UANI’s campaign to identify and disrupt Iran’s Ghost Armada promoted a leading maritime classification society, a P&I Club, and two flag states to take action against a dozen vessels.
  • In July 2023, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy (IRGC-N) Commander Alireza Tangsiri threatened retaliation against any company facilitating the enforcement of U.S.-seized Iranian oil aboard the SUEZ RAJAN.
  • On July 20, 2023, UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace called on President Biden and the Department of Defense to make clear that any Iranian attacks against the United States, its allies, and essential commercial interests at home or abroad will be met with a decisive military response. He also warned the IRGC-N Commander Alireza Tangsiri over his threats to U.S. forces.
  • On July 21, 2023, UANI applauded the Biden administration’s deployment of the BATTAN Amphibious Readiness Group to the Persian Gulf region.
  • On August 16, 2023, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged President Biden and members of his administration to resolve a months-long delay in the transfer of a cargo of oil from the SUEZ RAJAN.
  • On August 20, 2023, the SUEZ RAJAN began offloading its Iranian oil to the MR EUPHRATES, near Texas, which was then offloaded at a terminal in Houston.
  • On August 28, 2023, Iran summoned a Swiss diplomat over the U.S. seizure of Iranian crude oil.
  • On September 6, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed the statement of offense in United States of America v. Empire Navigation Inc. Suez Rajan Limited. The statement of offense is replete with UANI’s Tanker Tracking Teams’ research.
  • International press outlets extensively covered the successful conclusion of the Suez Rajan seizure matter and UANI’s key role. They include: The New York Times; Reuters; Associated Press; and Financial Times.

To read UANI’s resource, Oceans of Deceit: Iran's Deceptive Shipping Practices and Exploitation of the Maritime Industry, please click here.

To read UANI’s resource, Stop the Hop II: The Ghost Armada Grows, please click here.