the investigation begins in a climate of generalized skepticism

The judge appointed to investigate the deadly explosion of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut began its hearings on Monday, in a climate of deep public skepticism about the credibility of Lebanese justice.

Portfolios filled with dollars, gold nuggets, bank transfers, elevator returns … Corruption, which enabled the criminal storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the port of Beirut, comes to the heart of interrogations that begin on Monday, August 17 to establish responsibility for the deadly explosions that destroyed the Lebanese capital?

In a tweet, the founder of NGO Legal agenda, Nizar Saghieh, talked about a investigation “doomed to failure from the start”. A reaction that follows the appointment of Fadi Sawan, a military judge, at the head of the investigation. According to his deterrent, this appointment is not in favor of a wavy investigation. In the public opinion, the establishment of an international inquiry would have benefited from more credibility, but this solution was firmly rejected by Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

This survey“complex”, as the Lebanese head of state called it, It is special that this is a negligent storage of chemicals that many officials were aware of. In the hours following the August 4 explosion, several Lebanese officials spoke spontaneously about the uncertain presence of this storage of ammonium nitrate for six years, while in a few hours the media returned to this dangerous cargo.

Although Michel Aoun developed the hypothesis of “external action, with a missile or a bomb”, the trail of local failures remains privileged. The thorny issue of liability must now be decided by judge Fadi Sawan.

>> To read also: “Explosions in Beirut: the crazy story of the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in layer 12”

Blame

Customs and port officials in Beirut are among the first suspects. Among the 25 people charged, 19 of whom are already in pre-trial detention, are director of customs Badri Daher, his predecessor, Chafic Merhi, and director of the port of Beirut, Hassan Koraytem.

Judge Fadi Sawan must therefore first determine the conditions for this dangerous cargo to enter Lebanese territory. Has the customs authority issued a correct permit? Or was ammonium nitrate introduced into the port of Beirut by lubricating some bones?

Customs Director Badri Daher, whose office is under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, said in the daily L’Orient-Le Jour which has warned the courts “on six occasions, between 2014 and until recently” on the need to re-export this dangerous cargo. On the issue of the explosion itself, Badri Daher points the finger at the authorities in the port of Beirut by provoking “renovation work”.

For his part, the port’s director, Hassan Koraytem, ​​whose infrastructure depends on the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, declared on the LBCI channel that the ammonium nitrate was stored in a hangar under the control of a justice representative.

Large pack … or not

Investigators will therefore need to break the responsibilities of services under three different ministries: finance, public works and transport, justice. The first accidents between the first suspects raise the possibility of a major unpacking that would show the devastation of decades of corruption at the highest level.

These suspicions of widespread corruption are angering Lebanese, who have called on international donors not to provide humanitarian aid through the Lebanese government. Meanwhile, Beirut last week visited US Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale called a “moment of truth”where “everyone in power takes responsibility in one way or another”.