Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has seized a tanker near the Strait of Hormuz carrying smuggled fuel. Although there have been a number of seizures by the IRGC in recent months as smugglers exploit the cheapness of subsidized fuel in Iran compared with the price in Iraq and other central Asian countries, this time the seizure was of a larger than usual volume. The vessel was carrying a near-record 3m gallons of diesel, according to Mojtaba Qahremani, the judiciary chief for the province of Hormozgan.
The collapse of the value of the Iranian rial over the past four years has widened the opportunity for profit.
The foreign-flagged tanker’s captain and crew are being held pending prosecution, Qahremani told the IRGC-affiliated outlet Tasnim News.
Most fuel smuggling occurs via tanker trucks and small vehicles crossing Iran’s land borders, but a portion travels by maritime routes aboard small coastal product tankers, and the IRGC periodically announces an interdiction.
Ironically, the IRGC itself is an active player in energy smuggling. According to the US Treasury, it uses a network of shell companies and a system of ship-to-ship transfers in order to evade US sanctions on Iranian energy exports.