Lebanon blast evidence trail hints at ties to Hezbollah


The owner of an abandoned ship which transported thousands of tons of explosive ammonium nitrate to the Lebanese capital of Beirut ahead of the deadly August 4 blast there reportedly has financial links to Hezbollah, according to a German media report.

The Rhosus freighter, which brought the chemical to Beirut a few years ago, belonged to an entrepreneur from Cyprus and not, as previously thought, to a Russian businessman, news weekly Spiegel reported on Friday.

Court records show that the Cypriot entrepreneur took out a loan worth 1 million dollars from the Tanzanian FBME bank, which U.S. investigators reportedly accuse of acting as a money launderer for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The Tanzanian bank also stands accused of forcing defaulting debtors to carry out favours for customers, including Hezbollah, Spiegel wrote, citing a U.S. investigator.

The Russian businessman, Igor Grechushkin, previously believed to be the owner of the cargo ship, had reportedly only leased the vessel. At least 182 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in the massive blast in Beirut's port on 4 August.

The explosion is believed to have been fuelled by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port for years without safety precautions. The chemical is thought to have been transported to Lebanon on board the Rhosus.

According to Grechushkin, in November 2013, the country's authorities prevented the vessel's onward journey and confiscated the cargo. Hezbollah has strongly denied any responsibility for the disaster.    (dpa)

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