Cyprus police said Thursday that they located and brought in for questioning the Limassol-based Russian who has been identified as the former owner of the company that managed the vessel from which the 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that caused Beirut’s deadly blast late on Tuesday were unloaded.
According to the spokesperson for the Cyprus law enforcement authorities, Christos Andreou, responding a request by Interpol, local police tracked down the 43-year-old Russian businessman, Igor Grechushkin.
The 43-year-old was brought in for questioning regarding the cargo that caused the devastating blasts that left at least 135 dead and 5,000 wounded in the Lebanese capital, with his responses expected to be relayed to Lebanese authorities later on Thursday.
According to Russian media, in 2013, Lebanese authorities confiscated some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a combustible material used to make fertilizers (and bombs), from a Moldova-flag ship called the Rhosus, leased by Grechushkin,
The Rhosus was reportedly en route from Georgia to Mozambique, but it never reached its destination due to the Russian businessman’s entanglement in a financial and diplomatic dispute, with Grechuskin, who was in Cyprus at the time, instructing the vessel’s captain to head for Beirut claiming he couldn’t shoulder the cost for passage through the Suez Canal, international media have reported.
The vessel, about 30 or 40 years old, was deemed unseaworthy by Lebanese officials, who impounded the vessel for failing to pay the port docking fees and other charges, with Grechuskin being out of reach and abandoning the ship he had leased, reports said, leaving the mixed Russian-Ukrainian crew stranded, some of whom were not allowed to leave the port until 2014 due to the outstanding debt.
The rage of the Lebanese public has focused on authorities there, who were aware of the deadly cargo but failed to take action. Heads have particularly turned toward the judiciary, which had received at least six requests from senior customs officials for guidance on how to dispose of the ammonium nitrate but failed to respond.