Dubious Tanker Deal Comes to the Fore

Dubious Tanker Deal Comes to the ForeDubious Tanker Deal Comes to the Fore

A new scandal has come to light in Iran's oil industry following the controversy over the infamous "missing oil rig" case that took the media by storm last year.

Iran had reportedly purchased eight oil tankers during the tenure of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012, but only five tankers were delivered in a dubious deal valued at around $260 million, the Oil Ministry's official news agency Shana reported.

In a statement on Friday, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said the previous government had made a deal with a Greek broker, under which the individual was to buy the tankers in his name to deliver to NITC.

"This guy had received the money from Iran, but some problems emerged in the delivery of tankers and he did not return the money to us," Zanganeh said, adding that the broker was arrested around three weeks ago during a visit to Iran. Following the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, the US blacklisted the National Iranian Tanker Company in 2012, forcing it to turn to tankers sailing under non-Iranian flags to keep up crude exports under punitive sanctions.

In a report published by the Persian news website Tabnak on Wednesday, Mahmoud Eslamian, the head of Civil Servants Pension Organization, said the deal inflicted losses worth $28 million on NIOC as the Greek broker "refused to return the money in the past three years".

CSPO is a stakeholder in government-controlled NIOC. According to Hojjatollah Mirzaei, a deputy minister of labor, the three undelivered tankers have been scrapped.

"Everything in this transaction is unclear and it is not known why NITC embarked on buying secondhand carriers with non-Iranian flags while Iran's tanker fleet was mostly out of service," he said, adding that NITC's own tankers could have been reflagged for exports.

Mirzaei also questioned the credentials of Greek broker and said more deals might have been conducted with him, "but there is no concrete information on this yet".

The controversy over oil deals under the Ahmadinejad administration surfaced last year when reports emerged that Iran had purchased a foreign drilling rig in 2011, worth $87 million, that was never delivered in the deal whose recipient or recipients of the payment are still unknown.

Local media initially reported that the rig "had gone missing", fueling speculations that it was delivered to Iran and then moved elsewhere, but authorities later clarified that the rig was never delivered in the first place and ended up in the Gulf of Mexico.