In this file photo taken on August 18, 2019 an Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)

The US state department has confirmed it offered millions of dollars to the captain of an Iranian oil tanker which is at the centre of a diplomatic row.

Brian Hook, head of the department’s Iran Action Group, emailed the captain of the Adrian Darya 1 about sailing it somewhere the US could seize it.

Advertise With Us

The vessel was suspected of moving oil to Syria, and was temporarily impounded by UK authorities in Gibraltar in July.

It was released last month after Iran gave assurances about its destination.

The US justice department, which had tried to block the release, then issued a warrant to seize the tanker.

Reports of the cash offer first appeared in the Financial Times on Wednesday and have been confirmed by the state department.

“We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies,” a spokeswoman told AFP news agency.

The US blacklisted the tanker last Friday. A Treasury Department statement said the vessel was being used to transport 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil for the benefit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – a branch of the country’s armed forces the US has designated a terrorist organisation.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Hook sent an email to the Indian captain of the Adrian Darya 1, Akhilesh Kumar, before it imposed sanctions on the ship.

“I am writing with good news,” the email read. The Trump administration was willing to pay the captain several million dollars to take the ship somewhere it could be seized by US authorities.

The emails reportedly carried a state department phone number to make sure the captain – who took over the ship after it was impounded – did not think they were fake.

Mr Hook told the newspaper that the state department was “working very closely with the maritime community to disrupt and deter illicit oil exports”.

Mr Kumar ignored the emails. The US then imposed sanctions on him personally when they blacklisted the Adrian Darya 1.

On Twitter, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif accused the US of “outright bribery”.

“Once you start with a country as a youngster, I think you should stick with them,” Parlour added.

“It’s up to the player; he’s looking at whether he’ll get an opportunity.

“It’s a battle, because there are a lot of good players at England, and you’ll get a lot more caps if you go elsewhere.”