Interpol issues notices over Beirut blast ship

Published January 13, 2021Updated January 13, 2021 06:50am

BEIRUT: Interpol has issued red notices for three individuals linked to a shipment of ammonium nitrate that exploded at Beirut’s port in August, a Lebanese judicial source said on Tuesday.

The notices, requested by judge Ghassan Khoury, are for the owner and captain of the vessel that transported the fertiliser, the source said, along with a Portuguese businessman believed to have ordered it.

“Interpol has issued the international red notices and has circulated them to member states through the red notice list,” the source said.

A red notice, according to Interpol’s website, is “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.” Interpol was not immediately available for comment.

The Rhosus, a Moldovan-flagged cargo ship sailing from Georgia and bound for Mozambique, is widely understood to have brought the fertiliser to Beirut in 2013.

The explosion on August 4 last year killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and ravaged swathes of the Lebanese capital.

Boris Prokoshev, a Russian national who has been widely named as the ship’s captain, was among the subjects of the Interpol notices, the judicial source said.

So was Igor Grechushkin, a Russian who is described in the notice as the owner of the vessel, the source added. Cypriot police in August questioned Grechushkin over the case.

The Portuguese owner of the ammonium nitrate shipment was identified as Jose Moreira, the source said.

Lebanese state media reported the notices but did not identify the individuals.

After it arrived in Lebanon, the Rhosus faced “technical problems”, and security officials said it was impounded after a Lebanese company filed a lawsuit against its owner.

Port authorities unloaded the ammonium nitrate and stored it in a run-down port warehouse with cracks in its walls, according to officials. The Rhosus sank in Beirut port in 2018.

An investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named the ship’s ultimate owner as Charalambos Manoli, a Cypriot shipping magnate — a claim Manoli has denied.

Lebanon has rejected an international investigation into the country’s worst peace-time disaster, but foreign experts, including from the FBI and France, are aiding its probe.

It has so far arrested at least 25 suspects as part of the investigation, including top port and customs officials.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021

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