Russian Owner of Lebanon Explosive Material Ship Questioned on Cyprus

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Cypriot authorities, acting on a request from Interpol, said they found and questioned the Russian owner of a ship, the Rhosus, that took 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate to Beirut in 2013, the material exploding in a mass fireball that killed at least 149 people and left 300,000 homeless.

The Daily Politis reported that Igor Grechushkin is a resident of Limassol but does not have a Cypriot passport as earlier reported, although his Russian wife does, the island filled with Russians.

Lebanese authorities, who reportedly detained 16 people, also asked Cyprus to find and question Grechuskin over the cargo, Police Chief Stelios Papatheodorou saying answers were sent.

State broadcaster CyBC, citing Russian media, reported that Grechushkin lives in Cyprus and has already contacted the Russian consulate on the island.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou had told the Cyprus News Agency that initially there wasn't a request from Lebanese authorities but later added, that “We have already contacted Interpol Beirut and expressed our readiness to provide them with any assistance they need, if and when our assistance is requested,” he said.

The Rhosus was reportedly owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin’s Teto Shipping company and docked in Beirut in September 2013 while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with the order of ammonium nitrate.

Reports said that on inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and then  abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims, resulting in the bankruptcy of the company.

The man who sold the ship to Grechushkin’s company in May 2012, Cypriot businessman Charalambos Manolis, told news portal that the Russian businessman had legal problems both with the Lebanese authorities but also with his clients over his inability to deliver the cargo they were expecting leading to the confiscation of the ammonium nitrate and of the vessel.

Manolis had reportedly said his company’s offices in Limassol were right next door to that of Grechushkin’s until some two-and-a-half years ago when the Russian then moved his offices.

Boris Prokoshev, who was captain of the Rhosus in 2013, said the chemicals ended up in Beirut after Grechushkin - told him to make an unscheduled stop in Lebanon to pick up extra cargo, Reuters reported.