West German Gets Five-year Sentence for Helping Libya with Chemical Plant

A West German industrialist was convicted Wednesday and sentenced to five years in prison for helping Libya build a plant that Western officials suspect of producing poison gas and other chemical weapons.

Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, founder and former manager of Immhausen-Chemie, was found guilty of tax fraud and of violating West Germany’s export laws by sending chemicals and equipment to Libya for construction of a plant in Rabta, a town some 45 miles south of Tripoli.

Hippenstiel-Imhausen, 49, admitted in court two weeks ago that he had illegally sold Libya equipment, substances and know-how to build the chemical plant.

But he would not say whether he knew the factory was being built to produce chemical weapons. In the past, he said he thought the plant was being designed to produce pharmaceuticals.

Hippenstiel-Imhausen, who was arrested more than a year ago and has been in jail in Mannheim ever since, also admitted failure to pay taxes on $16 million of undeclared profits from his Libyan deals.

In New York, the World Jewish Congress said Hippenstiel-Imhausen’s conviction should not be viewed as the “end of the story” of West German involvement in helping Libya produce weapons that could be used against Israel.

An official of the organization said more needs to be done than “putting one guy in jail.”

Shortly after the Imhausen story broke, WJC leaders met with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. They received assurances that Bonn would enact tough laws to curb the export of equipment that could be used to build lethal weapons.

On June 1, the Bundestag, West Germany’s parliament, adopted legislation that makes it more difficult for German firms to sell chemical weapons abroad or help other countries produce them.

The government also said it would hire dozens of specialists to monitor the practices of companies engaged in producing systems or substances that could be used for biological of chemical weapons.

The WJC official said that in order for the law to have any real meaning, it must be “very rigorously policed.” He said his organization will be watching to see that the law is enforced.

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