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German Industrialist Charged on Poison Gas Export to Libya

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A West German industrialist in custody for almost a year has been formally charged with violating export laws to build a poison gas factory in Libya.

Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, founder and owner of a chemical company that bears his name, acted to the detriment of the Federal Republic, according to Peter Wechsung, the state prosecutor in Mannheim.

Imhausen is charged specifically with assisting Libya to build a factory at Rabta, about 40 miles south of Tripoli, which has been widely reported to have been producing poison gas for chemical weapons. Libya has repeatedly denied this, claiming the plant was only manufacturing Pharmaceuticals.

A suspicious fire destroyed the plant March 14, reportedly putting it out of operation only a week after U.S. intelligence reported it had started up again, following a hiatus of about a year.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi blamed West Germany for the fire.

The West German prosecution said it would try to prove that Imhausen, owner of Imhausen-Chemie, broke laws that bar the export of certain items without a permit from the Ministry of Economics.

According to Wechsung, West Germany’s foreign relations suffered gravely because of Imhausen’s alleged illegal activities.

Bonn had initially denied that West Germans were involved with the Rabta plant, despite evidence produced by the United States and Israel. The eventual exposure of Imhausen was therefore doubly embarrassing.

He was arrested in May 1989, after trying to conceal his illegal activities by using the name “Pharma 150″ for the Rabta plant. It was producing deadly gases known as Lost, Sarin and Soman, Wechsung said. Their only known use is for chemical warfare.

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