Interpol issues red notices for Rhosus ship captain and owner over Beirut blast: report

Lebanese state news agency NNA has claimed that that Interpol has issued a “red notice” for Captain Boris Prokoshev, the now-retired master of the Rhosus, and for Russian national Igor Grechushkin, the ship’s former owner. A red notice is issued at the request of a national government and calls on authorities in other nations to detain and hold the target individual for a possible extradition request. It is not an arrest warrant.

Their names were not on the public list of Red Notices on Interpol’s website on Wednesday.

The cargo that eventually caused the huge explosion in Beirut port last year was seized by port officials seven years ago and had been kept from then until the time of the explosion in a Beirut port warehouse. The ship itself sank in a part of the port three years ago.

The Rhosus had arrived in Beirut in 2013, carrying a cargo of 2,750 tonnes of explosives-grade ammonium nitrate. The call was a stop-over, with the cargo meant for delivery to a mining company in Mozambique. However, the owner allegedly abandoned the crew and the ship over unpaid port fees, and suppliers filed suit to arrest and sell the vessel.

In 2014 the port authorities discharged the cargo into the port’s warehouses.

The ageing and leaking Rhosus was left at a pier on the harbour’s edge until February 2018, when it sank.

The cargo at the port’s grain terminal in the central harbour until August 4th 2020, when it detonated, causing one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history

A large part of the Beirut waterfront was destroyed, more than 200 people died, and several ships in port were damaged, some severely.

Since then caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab; former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil; former public works minister Ghazi Zeaiter; and former public works minister Youssef Finianos, have been charged with offences related to the blast.

Captain Prokoshev – long retired from shipping – told Reuters that “I am shocked. I do not understand at all what could be the basis for my arrest”.

He had previously said that the chemicals ended up in Beirut after the ship’s owner told him to divert to pick up extra cargo, and that Lebanese authorities had paid little attention to the nitrate.

State news agency NNA said on Tuesday that Interpol also issued a notice for a Portuguese trader who examined the cargo at Beirut port in 2014.

The Interpol global police coordination agency says it does not confirm or deny red notices that are not publicly available on its website. An Interpol spokesperson told Reuters that if there was a notice and it was not published online, that meant it was for law enforcement only.