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Cyprus

Cyprus businessman denies link to Beirut blast

Part of the port area after the August explosion

A Cypriot businessman categorically denied on Monday that the ship carrying the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the port of Beirut last month killing around 200 people and leaving 300,000 homeless belonged to him at the time, as media reports had suggested.

In a report in August, the 0rganized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (Occrp), said Chralambos Manoli was the owner of the Rhosus cargo vessel, which made its final voyage, carrying 2,750 tonnes of explosive ammonia nitrate, before being stopped in Beirut and subsequently abandoned by its owner.

Manoli has denied he was the owner of the ship, which other reports say belonged to Russian national Igor Grechushkin, a permanent resident of Cyprus.

In a news release issued Monday, Manoli said “there have been a number of unfounded reports which have created an inaccurate and defamatory image of me and my activities. With my only motive that of restoring the truth, I must state categorically that what has come to light in recent days regarding me is entirely inaccurate.”

Manoli conceded that a company belonging to him owned the ship from 2010 until May 28, 2012.

“Any relationship with the ship Rhosus on my part ceased to exist as of June 2012, as is apparent from the Ship Continuous Synopsis Record issued by the country where the vessel was registered,” Manoli said.

Shipping records showed that the ship loaded ammonium nitrate in Georgia in September 2013 and was meant to deliver it to an explosives maker in Mozambique.

But before leaving the Mediterranean, the captain and two crew members say they were instructed by the Russian businessman they regarded as the ship’s de facto owner, Grechushkin, to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut and take on extra cargo.

The Rhosus arrived in Beirut in November but never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute over unpaid port fees and ship defects.

Creditors accused the ship’s legal owner, listed as a Panama-based firm, of abandoning the vessel while the cargo was later unloaded and put in a dockside warehouse, where it exploded six years later.

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