U.S. Confirms Cash Offer to Tanker Captains to Seize Iranian Vessels

State Department: IRGC directing petroleum products to Syria to fund terror

A British Police ship patrols near supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar
A British Police ship patrols near supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar / Getty Images

The United States offered millions in cash to tanker captains of Iranian vessels in a bid to seize Iranian ships, the State Department confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Financial Times on Wednesday reported that the Indian captain of an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria was offered several millions of dollars by Brian Hook, the U.S. representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The State Department was offering the money to sail the ship to "a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the U.S."

A State Department spokesperson confirmed to the Free Beacon that details in the Financial Times article were accurate.

The offer was made in a bid to disrupt illicit Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps activities, according to the spokesperson.

"The IRGC-QF is directing near monthly shipments of Iranian petroleum products—each worth tens of millions of dollars—to Syria and elsewhere to fund terrorist and militant activity across the Middle East," the spokesperson told the Free Beacon.

The department conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains and shipping companies warning them of the consequences of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions and providing support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to the spokesperson, who added that companies and individuals found to be working with designated persons or entities could be subject to sanctions themselves.

The cash offer made to the captain of the Iranian tanker falls under a 1984 program called "Rewards for Justice," the Financial Times reported. A State Department spokesperson confirmed the program is available to anyone who helps disrupt IRGC operations.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif called the U.S. actions "blackmail" in a tweet following the Financial Times report.

The effort to warn individuals and companies about aiding Iran is part of the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign.

The United States on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on Iran's shipping network.