Iraq takes Kurdish govt & Greek shipping firm to court
The government of Iraq has started legal proceedings against the Kurdistan Regional Government and Greek shipping company Marine Management Services.
Iraq has refiled in U.S. court to gain control of $100 million of Kurdish crude oil on a tanker near Texas, days after the court ruled it lacked jurisdiction to seize the cargo but said it could hear arguments over who is the oil’s rightful owner.
According to Reuters, Iraq widened its case to include potential buyers of the cargo and said the Kurdistan Regional Government has not stated if it currently owns it.
Baghdad urged the court to intervene by taking temporary control of the cargo until the dispute is resolved, and said the U.S. court in fact has jurisdiction because the case involves business done in the United States.
The dispute over the United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude, is also being litigated in Baghdad, but Iraq said the Kurds have yet to respond to at least one of their lawsuits there.
The tanker has been stationed about 60 miles off Texas since late July, as the central government of Iraq wages a legal battle against Iraqi Kurdistan over who has the sole right to export crude.
“This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against John Doe Buyer,” Iraq said in its motion. U.S. District Court Judge Gray Miller had invited Iraq to replead the case.
Iraq also filed a lawsuit against Greek shipping company Marine Management Services for its role in the export of the crude.
The Iraq government, which claims sole authority to manage sales of all the oil in the country, has been trying to deter customers and thwart independent exports of crude from the autonomous Kurdistan region.
In a statement released last week, the Iraqi oil ministry claimed MMS operated five vessels that had transported oil on behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government from a Turkish port.
"MMS has actively facilitated the KRG's illegal export scheme, repeatedly ignoring warnings that the crude oil it was carrying does not belong to the KRG," it said in a statement, which did not specify when and where the case was filed.
"MMS is liable for damages of at least $318 million, and possibly significantly more, as a result of its willing and active participation in the KRG's illegal crude oil export scheme."
Athens-based ship manager MMS said it was not aware of any suit filed by the Iraqi government and maintained it was simply carrying out its business of transporting goods.
"We are not a party to this dispute, and any lawsuit filed against us by the Iraqi government is misdirected and ill-advised and will be robustly defended for lacking any basis and foundation," MMS said in a separate statement last week.