They are "responsible for the board of directors of the port of Beirut and the customs administration, and those responsible for maintenance work and (workers) who carried out work in hangar number 12", where was stored ammonium nitrate, military prosecutor Fadi Akiki said in a statement.
They were arrested Wednesday or Thursday, according to a source familiar with the matter. The date of their arrest, their identity or the charges against them were not specified.
On Wednesday, the government demanded the house arrest of "anyone involved in the storage of ammonium" since the arrival of the cargo in Beirut in 2014.
For six years, nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a component at risk, remained stored in a cracked warehouse in the port of Beyrout h, despite multiple warnings and the odors emanating from it. It is this warehouse which, by exploding on Tuesday, caused an explosion of incredible violence, felt as far as Cyprus. These explosions left at least 137 dead and 5,000 injured.
The various port authorities reject the responsibility
Port authorities, customs and security services were all aware of hazardous chemicals being stored at the port but have shifted responsibility to each other, security sources said.
In June 2019, state security launched an investigation into this cargo, after repeated complaints about foul odors emanating from the hangar. She had reported that the warehouse contained “hazardous materials that must be moved” and indicated that the warehouse walls were cracked and recommended that it be repaired.
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Badri Daher, director general of Lebanese customs, had alerted "six times, between 2014 and until recently", the justice on the danger posed by the storage of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate in the port, a he assured Wednesday at L'Orient-Le Jour.
Before continuing:“This is not a customs issue, because this merchandise was stored in a hangar at the port of Beirut. These hangars are managed and operated by the port management. And this department is under the supervision of the Ministry of Works. "
Work at the origin of the drama?
An official close to the matter assured that the Central Bank of Lebanon had ordered a freeze of the assets of seven officials of the port and customs, including the director of customs, Badri Daher.
The port management, who was aware of the dangerous nature of the products, finally sent workers a few days ago to patch up the cracks in the warehouse. This work, according to security sources, was at the origin of the tragedy, according to the authorities.
According to Riad Kobaissi, a Lebanese investigative journalist specializing in corruption cases and who has often investigated the port of Beirut, the customs services are seeking to shirk all responsibility. He pointed out that it was originally forbidden to bring such chemicals into Lebanon without authorization. Riad Kobaissi concludes that this affair "highlights the state of dilapidation and corruption within customs, which assume in the first place, but not exclusively, the responsibility" of the tragedy.