Arrest notice issued for men linked to 2,750 tonnes of explosives shipped to the port of Beirut.
Beirut, Lebanon – Interpol has issued three international arrest notices for the owner and captain of a ship that brought 2,750 tons of explosives to the port of Beirut seven years before it exploded in the deadly August 2020 explosion.
A judicial source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Attorney General Ghassan Khoury had received a letter informing him that the so-called “red notices” had been published, based on the request of the Lebanese justice.
The persons named are Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman and apparent owner of the MV Rhosus which brought ammonium nitrate to Beirut in late 2013, as well as the ship’s captain at the time, Borys Prokoshew, who is also Russian. .
A notice was also issued for Portuguese national Jorge Moreira, who allegedly bought the explosive material from the Georgian factory Rustavi Azot.
Moreira visited the port warehouse where the equipment was stored in 2014, the Lebanon National Press Agency reported.
Red Notices are non-binding requests sent to law enforcement around the world to find and provisionally arrest people, often awaiting extradition. They are not the same as international arrest warrants.
After the explosive cargo entered the port of Beirut in 2013, Lebanese political, security and judicial officials failed to get it out of a port hangar for six years despite repeated warnings.
Over time, the hangar was used to store other flammable and explosive materials. It ignited on August 4, triggering a massive explosion that killed 200 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed large parts of the city.
Sources close to the investigation told Al Jazeera investigators that they believed Grechushkin and Prokoshew were in Russia, while Moreira’s whereabouts are unknown.
Probe to resume at the end of the month
The investigation into Lebanon’s worst peacetime disaster, led by Judge Fadi Sawan, was suspended for almost four weeks after two influential suspects filed a request for his removal.
Sawan in December indicted the two former ministers and current members of parliament, Ali Hasan Khalil and Ghazi Zaeiter, with criminal negligence following the explosion. He brought the same charges against the outgoing Prime Minister of Lebanon Hassan Diab and the former Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenians.
About thirty others had already been arrested in connection with the explosion.
Senior Lebanese politicians quickly united in their condemnation of Sawan, arguing that he lacked the power to prosecute senior officials due to political immunity, even though legal groups – including the prestigious Bar of Beirut – said it was fully within its powers.
No senior official has been successfully prosecuted for crimes committed in Lebanon’s post-civil war history despite rampant corruption, mismanagement and recurrent political violence. This has fostered a culture of impunity.
Sawan suspended his investigation on December 17 to allow a court to rule on Zaeiter and Khalil’s request to fire him, but a judge said on Monday he would have to resume the investigation.
Sawan will resume questioning on January 25 when a severe lockdown of COVID-19 in Lebanon is about to end, a source close to the judge told Al Jazeera, saying he would not be able to summon accused or to issue subpoenas before that date.