12 Pinoys face charges in Iran for oil smuggling
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday confirmed news reports that Iran’s Coast Guard had seized a tugboat and detained its 12 Filipino crew on Sept. 7 for allegedly smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf.
The 12 Filipino seafarers will face court charges in Iran following the seizure of the tugboat they were manning.
Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos reported to the DFA that “Coast Guard authorities relayed that an investigation is ongoing on the alleged oil smuggling of the crew, and once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court.”
The Philippine Embassy in Tehran could not say how the 12 seafarers were doing.
“The embassy is seeking further updates on the seafarers’ condition and stands ready to provide assistance when needed,” the DFA said.
Fuel smuggling ring
According to news reports, Iranian authorities suspected the vessel’s crew of operating a fuel smuggling ring in the Gulf.
The seized vessel was reportedly carrying nearly 284,000 liters of diesel worth 233.71 billion rials ($2 million).
“A foreign tugboat was confiscated as well as 283,900 liters (75,000 gallons) of petrol worth 233.71 billion rials (about $2 million),” the semiofficial news agency ISNA reported, citing the coast guard chief in the southern Iran province of Hormozgan.
“Twelve Philippine nationals were arrested and the relevant judiciary officials are currently taking the required legal measures,” Maj. Hossein Dehaki was quoted as saying.
Dehaki said the confiscated shipment had been intercepted close to Sirik county in the Strait of Hormuz.
The seizure comes amid tensions in the Gulf after the United States unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.
In the most high-profile seizure, the guards impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 for breaking “international maritime rules.”
The vessel is currently anchored in Hormozgan province, which is home to a major Iranian naval base fronting the Persian Gulf.
Lone Pinoy in oil tanker
The DFA has not answered queries on updates on the condition of the lone Filipino seafarer of the 23-member crew of the British-flagged oil tanker. The crew included 18 Indians, three Russians and a Latvian national.
Iran also seized another ship on July 31 with seven foreign crew onboard for fuel smuggling, but it has not revealed the vessel’s identity or the nationality of its crew. —With a report from AFP
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