Syrian-Russian businessmen with ties to Assad regime linked to Beirut blast: Report

Three Syrian-Russian dual citizens close to the Assad regime had a role in purchasing the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the Port of Beirut last August, according to a new report by a Lebanese investigative journalist.

Two of those men were sanctioned in late 2015 for their ties to the Syrian regime and “facilitating Syrian government oil purchases” from ISIS.

Mudalal Khuri, one of the three men, was sanctioned for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of previously designated entities and individuals including the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria” and others, the US Treasury Department said in 2015.

The Treasury Department went further to accuse Khuri of being an “intermediary” between a Syrian Central Bank official and a Russian firm “on an attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013.”

That happens to be the same year that the highly-explosive material arrived in Beirut aboard the Rhosus ship.

In the report aired by the Lebanese journalist, a company named Savaro Limited purchased the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in July 2013.

Savaro was led by Khuri’s brother, Imad, and another man by the name of George Haswani, according to the report.

A view of the damaged grain silo following the explosion at Beirut port, in Beirut, Lebanon Aug. 26, 2020. (Reuters)A view of the damaged grain silo following the explosion at Beirut port, in Beirut, Lebanon Aug. 26, 2020. (Reuters)

The US designated Imad in July 2016 for providing services in support of his brother.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Interpol issued red notices for the captain and owner of the ship that carried the chemicals.

Five months since one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record, big questions remain about the ammonium nitrate that detonated after being stored at the port for years.

The Interpol notices, which are not international arrest warrants, ask authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions. Interpol issues them at the request of a member country.

Lebanese officials have faced accusations of negligence, with some port and customs employees detained in connection to the blast, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more. Families of the victims are still waiting for the results of the investigation.

Lebanon’s public prosecution asked Interpol in October to issue arrest warrants for two people it had identified as the Russian captain and owner of the Rhosus ship, which arrived in Beirut in 2013, security and judicial sources said.

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