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Russia ship captain ‘shocked’ by Interpol red notice after Lebanon port blast



Boris Prokoshev, the captain of the ship that carried the ammonium nitrate that led to an explosion at Beirut port in August, said he was “shocked” to learn that Interpol had issued a red notice against him in connection with the blast.

“I am shocked and I do not understand at all what could be the basis for my arrest. I would have understood if we had transported the cargo to Lebanon. We were carrying it to Mozambique, and the Lebanese authorities detained us with the cargo because the ship owner did not pay the port’s fees, but what does the ship’s captain have to do with this matter?” Prokoshev told Reuters on Tuesday, explaining that Lebanese authorities had paid little attention to the nitrate at the time.

Lebanon’s state media reported on Tuesday that Interpol had issued red notices for the captain and owner of the ship that carried the ammonium nitrate which exploded in August 2020, killing nearly 200 people and wounding over 6,000 others.

Authorities said the explosion was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut port, confiscated from the ship, MV Rhosus.

RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Vice President of the Seafarers Union of Russia, Igor Kovalchuk, as saying that Lebanon’s request for Interpol to arrest two Russian citizens in connection with the explosion is an effort to show its citizens that it is taking steps to identify the perpetrators.

READ: Lebanon to receive $246m emergency aid from the World Bank

A red notice is a request for law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest the named person in preparation for extradition or legal action.

Though it is commonly seen as the closest thing to an international arrest warrant, an Interpol arrest warrant does not require authorities to arrest the subject.

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Algeria’s energy minister denies Lebanon adulterated fuel crisis



Algerian Energy Minister Abdelmadjid Attar asserted on Thursday that there was no crisis with Lebanon regarding the shipment of so-called adulterated fuel by the state-owned oil company Sonatrach.

According to Anadolu Agency, this came in Attar’s response to a question asked in the National Assembly.

The minister pointed out that what was known as the Sonatrach case in Lebanon has nothing to do with the national oil company, but instead concerns internal political problems within the Lebanese state.

He added: “We have no problem with Lebanon. Sonatrach’s branch in London has undertaken all the responsibility for what happened and replaced the allegedly adulterated fuel with another shipment.”

READ: It is time for reconciliation between Morocco and Algeria

Attar continued: “The fuel was not adulterated, but it was mixed with sand, therefore the shipment was replaced.”

A few days ago, media in both countries reported news of threats issued by Sonatrach to the Lebanese state-owned electricity company about resorting to international arbitration to obtain its arrears for the fuel shipment.

Neither Sonatrach nor the Algerian Energy Ministry made any immediate comment on the validity of the news.

Since January 2006, Sonatrach has concluded an agreement with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy to supply it with diesel and fuel oil to benefit the state-owned Lebanese electricity company.

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Switzerland to probe Lebanon central bank governor over money laundering



Swiss officials have opened an investigation into Lebanon’s central bank governor over allegations of money laundering.

Riad Salameh, 70, is under investigation for “possible embezzlement” and “aggravated money laundering” from the Lebanese central bank, the Financial Times reported.

The investigation was launched at the request of the Lebanese government, which is probing reports that billions of dollars left Lebanon despite a ban on overseas transfers, according to Associated Press (AP).

The investigation will centre on overseas transfers made by the governor and his close associates, but Swiss authorities have not yet confirmed if Salameh is the subject of investigation specifically.

Salameh said that the allegations that money had been moved abroad, “whether in his name, his brother’s name or his assistant’s name” were “fake news,” in a statement issued by the Central Bank.

The statement was issued after Lebanon’s justice minister said Swiss judicial authorities requested cooperation in the probe.

Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm confirmed she had filed a request with the public prosecutor to cooperate with the investigation, according to Reuters.

READ: Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile

Salameh was previously accused of financial misdemeanours in a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and its Lebanese partner Daraj, in August last year.

The report claims Salameh and his family own $100m of assets worldwide including real estate in Germany, Belgium, and the UK, and have used several overseas shell companies to illegitimately amass wealth.

Salameh has recently come under fire for his handling of Lebanon’s financial crisis, which has seen the country’s currency, the Lebanese pound, lose more than 80 per cent of its value.

The government defaulted on a $1.2m Eurobond debt in March and started talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a rescue package, but negotiations stalled.

In an effort to stem Lebanon’s economic collapse, banks imposed stringent capital controls, limiting account holders to withdrawing as little as $100 per week, and barred overseas transfers.

However, during the chaos, reports emerged that wealthy Lebanese, including bank owners and government officials, were still able to transfer capital abroad.

In February 2020, local daily Al-Akhbar reported that five bank owners had transferred $2.3bln overseas since the previous October.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed Salameh for the multiple crises, but Salameh has repeatedly defended his role.

READ: Lebanon inks final deal for 2.1m doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

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