World

US offered millions to captain of Iranian tanker

WASHINGTON : A senior United States official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading for Syria, the State Department confirmed on Wednesday.

The Financial Times reported that Mr Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent e-mails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered "good news" of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized.

"We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate," a State Department spokesman said.

"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 organisation," she said, referring to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

The Adrian Darya 1 was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria - a violation of European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Gibraltar released the ship on Aug 18 over US protests after receiving assurances that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the EU.

US authorities said Kumar, 43, took over as captain in Gibraltar. After he apparently did not respond to the US offer, the Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions both on the ship and on Kumar himself, freezing any assets he may have in the US and criminalising any US financial transactions with him.

"Any US or foreign persons that engage in certain transactions with designated persons or entities may themselves be exposed to sanctions," the State Department spokesman said.

The Adrian Darya 1 has been elusive since sailing off from Gibraltar, with monitors reporting that it has been moving in the eastern Mediterranean near Lebanon.

The US also announced on Wednesday that it was imposing sanctions on a shipping network alleged to be tied to the Revolutionary Guards, and offering up to US$15 million (S$20.8 million) for information that could disrupt the unit's finances.- AFP

WORLD