US-sought tanker ‘hijacked’ off UAE now in Iran: UN agency

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — A United Nations (UN) agency acknowledged yesterday that a United States (US)-sought oil tanker “hijacked” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after allegedly smuggling Iranian crude oil is back in Iranian waters.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) said that the MT Gulf Sky was hijacked on July 5, citing its captain. That mirrors earlier reporting by The Associated Press.

“The vessel was taken to Iran,” the ILO said.

It said that all 28 Indian crew members disembarked in Iran and all but two of the crew without passports flew from Tehran to India on July 15.

The ILO cited the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network for its information. The ILO earlier filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners without pay since March off Khorfakkan in UAE.

Iranian state media and officials have not acknowledged the hijacking and arrival of the MT Gulf Sky to Iran. The US government similarly has not commented.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some USD12 million to purchase the tanker, then named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies.

Court documents allege the smuggling scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.