Investigating judge Fadi Sawwan was officially informed this morning of the decision of the Criminal Court of Cassation to withdraw the case of the explosion at the Port of Beirut.

As a reminder, the Court of Cassation, seized by two former ministers, former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former Transport Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, whom the magistrate had indicted in connection with this case, had justified his decision on the grounds that the judge whose home in the Asfiehrah district had also been damaged by the explosion , was therefore a stakeholder.

As soon as the decision was announced, many relatives of the families of the victims of this tragedy demonstrated near the Beirut court, in support of the magistrate who was also due to issue an arrest warrant for Youssef Fenianos yesterday, also a former transport minister.

The public prosecutor, Judge Ghassan El-Khoury, referred the court’s decision to the minister of justice in the interim government, Marie-Claude Najem, who is expected to decide what to do next.

The explosion of the port of Beirut

As a reminder, more than 200 people are reported to have died and more than 6,500 people were injured in the explosion that devastated the port of Beirut and much of the Lebanese capital on 4 August. 300,000 people are also reported to be homeless as a result of the explosion.

The trail of an accidental explosion on 4 August 2020 of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate inside a warehouse in beirut harbour, seized in 2014 on a garbage ship, the Moldovan-flagged Rhosus, is currently favoured by the Lebanese authorities. This explosion would be equivalent to that of 600 tons of TNT or an earthquake of 3.3 on the Richter scale.
It is said to have caused a crater 110 metres long and 43 metres deep, a security source said on Sunday (August 9th), citing comments by French experts at the scene.

Speaking in the Columns of the Washington Post on 7 September, the Prosecutor of the Republic, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, revealed that in addition to the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, kerosene, gazoil, 25 tons of fireworks and detonators for use for mines were also present in the same warehouse.

The presence of these products could have maintained the fire and allowed it to reach the temperatures allowing the explosion of ammonium nitrate, some experts point out.

The damage is estimated to be between $10 billion and $15 billion.

The port of Beirut, an area where corruption was widespread

The Lebanese authorities’ refusal to set up an international investigation is linked to the fear that the scale of corruption at Lebanon’s main gate would be involved in almost all Lebanese political parties, including some who are now calling for the investigation, some media sources note, under the guise of a temporary authority to manage the port of Beirut whose appointments were made on official sectarian lines.

Saad Hariri, who has been in question almost because of his closeness to the former director of the port of Beirut Hassan Koraytem for more than 20 years, now denies any direct link with him.

On the spot, operators note that the transit of goods often gives rise to a racketeering. Thus, in order to be able to get goods out of the port of Beirut, important undersides must be frequently paid.

Others note that some shipments are not checked. Goods are also under-billed so as not to pay taxes due to a state in financial crisis.

The investigation into those responsible for the explosion

At present, 33 people are currently under investigation. Of these, 25 people are currently being held as part of the investigation into the explosion. Among them, the director of the port of Beirut, Hassan Koraytem, as well as the director of the Lebanese customs services Badri Daher, both indicted by the investigating judge Fadi Sawwan, in charge of the investigation.

In total, several security officials and the port of Beirut were arrested.

Some sources point out that the various Lebanese political parties had shared the revenues of the port of Beirut , making it difficult at present to know the responsibilities of each in this explosion.

Several political parties, both majority and opposition, would also like to conclude the investigation quickly, having been involved in various traffickings that take place to or from the port of Beirut. They would like to avoid the degree of involvement of each individual and the security violations necessary to continue their trafficking.

Also, security officials had warned the political authorities several times in recent years, the judicial authorities have not decided on the implementation of the necessary measures of transfer of the cargo.

Sources close to the case also point to the responsibility of several administrations in the port of Beirut, especially since senior officials were aware of the danger posed by the improper storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate since 2014.

Although the FBI report could not conclude on the origin of the explosion and suggests an apparently accidental lead based on information provided by the Lebanese authorities, Lebanon remains awaiting the results of parallel investigations conducted by France and Great Britain.

On 10 December, Judge Fadi Sawwan indicted outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former transport ministers Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Finianos.

Undetermined quantities removed before explosion, says Badri Daher

According to customs director Badri Daher, quoted by sources close to the investigation, an undetermined amount of ammonium nitrate was removed before the explosion. However, no information is currently available regarding the identity or parties responsible for these levies.

Security official who warned of dangerous cargo initially murdered

In addition, the family of a Lebanese customs official accuse some stakeholders of being involved in his murder. Colonel Joseph Skaff, in charge of the fight against drug trafficking and money laundering, had informed the Lebanese authorities as early as 2014 of the dangerousness of the cargo of ammonium nitrate and refused to unload it in a letter sent to several local officials on 21 February 2014

Transferred from his post a few months later, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate will be discharged from the Rhosus and stored until the explosion occurs.

As a candidate in the parliamentary elections, Joseph Skaff’s body was found with his skull smashed near his home. The official forensic report that concluded an accidental death is questioned by a counter-expertise evoking a sudden act of aggressiveness that led to his fall and thus evokes the trail of an assassination.

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