West German Admits He Helped Libya with Plant, but Not for Poison Gas

A West German industrialist admitted in court Wednesday that he had illegally sold Libya equipment, substances and know-how to build a chemical plant in the remote desert town of Rabta.

But Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, founder and former manager of Immhausen-Chemie, stopped short of admitting that the heavily guarded plant was built to produce poison gas and other chemical warfare weapons.

In the third day of his trial, which is being held in the city of Mannheim, Imhausen dropped a political bombshell when he implicated the largely state-owned chemical giant, Salzgitter A.G., in his admittedly illegal transactions.

Imhausen said that Salzgitter, as a subcontractor for Imhausen-Chemie, had been deeply involved in shipping equipment and substances to Rabta.

The Bundestag, as West Germany’s parliament is called, was expected to examine Salzgitter’s role in the affair on Friday.

Imhausen, who spent more than a year in jail in Mannheim before going to trial, is accused of tax fraud and evading the export laws. He admitted failure to pay taxes on $16 million of undeclared profits from his Libyan deals.

The prosecutor said Thursday that he would try to extract an admission from Imhausen that he knew he was helping the Libyans produce poison gas. But failing that, he would prove the charge, the prosecutor said.

He noted that Imhausen has already conceded he tried to conceal his activities by setting up a dummy company in Hong Kong to ship materials to Libya. He did that, he said, to avoid further damage to West Germany’s image abroad.

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