A recent seizure by the Kuwaiti coast guard of more than 200 tonnes of diesel fuel from an Iranian ship is evidence of Tehran’s expanding efforts to profit from illegal smuggling in the region.
The Kuwaiti coast guard on May 21 interdicted a ship inside Kuwaiti territorial waters that had on board an estimated 240 tonnes of smuggled diesel.
The eight Iranian nationals onboard the ship were arrested, security sources told Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas.
The sources said the Iranian sailors confessed to buying smuggled diesel from Kuwait to sell it in one of the neighbouring Gulf countries, noting that their confessions were documented, ahead of referring them to the Public Prosecution.
One of the Iranian regime’s tactics is to use unwitting civilians, such as poverty-stricken fishermen, to do their bidding without having to be directly involved and thus avoid responsibility if things go bad.
Network of duped seafarers
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) relies on a network of pirates and duped seafarers in the Gulf region to smuggle wepons, fuel and drugs, media reports and experts say.
A large number of Indian seafarers have been tricked by Iranian shipping companies into working in dangerous conditions involving transporting drugs and cargo that is under international sanctions — often with little or no pay.
Thousands are lured to Iran each year by recruiters guaranteeing salaries and experience aboard reputable ships and often promising assignments in other Middle Eastern countries, The Washington Post reported in January.
Instead, they are sent to Iran and put to sea, where they are overworked, denied enough food and at times forced to transport drugs and sanctioned cargo, according to more than two dozen men interviewed for the report.
A 28-year-old Indian seafarer, who said he worked for two companies involved in smuggling Iranian diesel between 2016 and 2020, said tankers carrying fuel always anchor in the international waters that separate Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).