According to a new investigative report by Der Spiegel, the real proprietor of the vessel in Beirut explosions investigation that discharged the 2,750 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut has ties to the FBME Bank which accused of acting as a money launderer for Hezbollah.
In the beginning, it’s believed that the Rhesus tanker seized by the authorities of Lebanese in November 2013 and then discharged the ammonium nitrate in the port of Beirut was owned by a Russian man called by Igor Grechushkin.
Indeed, Der Spiegel and the journalism network named the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found new reports that prove the ship was actually owned by Cypriot businessman Charalambos Manoli. Der Spiegel said: In contrast to Grechushkin, the Russian who chartered the vessel, Manoli did have business relations in Lebanon. Court records show that Manoli took out a loan back in 2011 for $4 million from the Tanzanian FBME Bank to finance the purchase of another ship, the Sakhalin.
According to ship-tracking service Marine Traffic, The Rhesus tanker with the Manoli is the proprietor and that the reports revealed that it discharged the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut in 2013, showed its preceding tracks over many countries in the Mediterranean before its abandonment in the Lebanese capital a year later.
In fact, in 2014, Cyprus that manage the Tanzanian FBME Bank (formerly known as Federal Bank of the Middle East), had officially installed the local branch of FBME under its direction and that after anxieties which previously declared by the United States that it was a channel for money laundering for Islamist militants and Hezbollah. Moreover, FBME Bank Ltd. (FBME) was established in 1982 in Cyprus in the name of the Federal Bank of the Middle East Ltd. that is a company followed to the private Lebanese bank, the Federal Bank of Lebanon.
In the final ruling from the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2016: Illicit activities involving FBME included an FBME customer’s receipt of a deposit of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a financier for Lebanese Hezbollah. As of early 2015, an alleged Hezbollah associate and the Tanzanian company he managed owned accounts at FBME.
According to Der Spiegel’s report, internal reports from FBME indicated that Manoli remains owed 962,000 euros to the bank in outstanding debt as of October 2014, and Der Spiegel said that Manoli denies any connection between his debts and the fact that the freighter was stopped in Beirut. However, one investigator notes that FBME is notorious for pressuring defaulting borrowers into doing favors for dubious customers like Hezbollah.
About the Rhesus connections, many questions have appeared in earlier weeks given its questionable history. Furthermore, according to Automatic Identification System (AIS) data in 2012, the Rhesus tanker also varied its name slightly at least five times in 2012.