The Broad Reach and Limitations of U.S. Forfeiture Law

Mainbrace (November 2019 - No. 3)

In August of this year, the world watched closely to learn what would become of the Grace 1 and the more than two million barrels of Iranian crude oil that she carried. The tanker was boarded in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar by the British Royal Navy on July 4 as it passed through Gibraltar’s territorial waters. It was detained on suspicion that it was delivering Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. 

Gibraltar released the Grace 1 on August 15, in spite of a request by the United States to seize the vessel. Gibraltar’s chief minister stated that Iran had provided assurance that the vessel would not deliver the oil to Syria when released, and there were no longer grounds for detention. Although Gibraltar denied the United States’ request, the U.S. government filed a civil forfeiture complaint (the “Complaint”) in a U.S. federal court seeking authority to seize the ship, the oil, and funds held in a U.S. bank account belonging to Paradise Global, an alleged front company used to help launder funds to assist the operation.  Read More »

This article by Matthew J. Thomas, partner at Blank Rome, Jed M. Silversmith, of counsel at Blank Rome, and Dana S. Merkel, associate at Blank Rome, is one in a series of articles written for Blank Rome Maritime's quarterly Mainbrace newsletter. To view the other articles in the November 2019 edition of Mainbrace, please click here.