Explosion in Beirut: arrest warrant against the owner and captain of the ship involved

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The judge in charge of the investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut in early August, which killed more than 190 people, issued an arrest warrant targeting the owner and the captain of the ship that transported the substance that caused the the powerful explosion, a judicial source told AFP.

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The explosion, caused by a fire, on August 4 of several hundred tons of ammonium nitrate stored for six years in a warehouse in the port of the Lebanese capital also left more than 6,500 injured and devastated entire neighborhoods of the city.

The cargo was seized in November 2013 from a Moldovan-flagged boat that left Georgia for Mozambique. The “Rhosus” had docked in Beirut because of “technical problems”, according to the Lebanese law firm Baroudi & Associates, which represents the crew of the boat.

Port authorities unloaded 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and stored them in a dilapidated warehouse with cracked walls, Lebanese officials said, while the “Rhosus” – immobilized after the launch of legal proceedings against the owner – a ended up sinking in the port of Beirut in 2018.

The judge “Fadi Sawan has issued two arrest warrants against the owner of the Rhosus (…) as well as against the captain of the boat,” said the judicial source, without specifying their identities.

“He transmitted them to the prosecutor, who communicated them to Interpol asking him to issue an international opinion for their arrest,” she continued, adding that this decision came a month after the trip of a Lebanese delegation. to speak with the owner in Cyprus where he resides.

According to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of investigative journalists, the owner of the “Rhosus” was Charalambos Manoli, a Cypriot shipping tycoon. What he denies.

Cypriot police said two days after the explosion they had questioned Igor Grechushkin, a Russian living in Cyprus, at the request of the Lebanese authorities. Several media had indicated that he had rented the “Rhosus”.

The captain of the ship was identified in the press as Boris Prokochev, a Russian citizen.

Lebanon has refused to open an international investigation into the explosion, but foreign experts, including Americans and French, are contributing to the Lebanese investigation.

At this point, 25 people have been arrested, including senior officials from port and customs authorities.

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