Beirut port blast victims’ families file lawsuit in US

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Families of some of the victims of Beirut’s deadly port blast have filed a $250 million lawsuit against an American-Norwegian firm suspected of involvement in bringing the explosive material to the port, a Swiss foundation announced on Wednesday.

Accountability Now, which says its mission is to support Lebanese civil society efforts to put an end to the impunity of the country’s leaders, said the lawsuit was filed Monday.

There are nine plaintiffs who are either Americans or relatives of an American, the group said.

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The move comes as a domestic investigation in Lebanon has been stalled since December, following legal challenges brought by officials wanted for questioning against the investigative judge working on the case.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on August 4, 2020 killing nearly 220 people, injuring over 6,000 others and causing damage worth billions of dollars.

The Lebanese probe shows that most government officials knew of the dangerous material stored at the port.

Accountability Now said the $250 million lawsuit filed in Texas names US-Norwegian geophysical services group TGS, which owns the British firm Spectrum Geo, saying it had entered into a series of “highly profitable but suspicious contracts with the Ministry of Energy in Lebanon.”

It added that in 2012, Spectrum chartered the Moldavian flagged vessel Rhosus to come to Beirut while carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate on board.

“This claim will force TGS to disclose Spectrum’s communications with various third parties who are all relevant to the investigations in Lebanon,” said Zena Wakim, lawyer for the Foundation Accountability Now who assisted the plaintiffs.

Wakim said the investigation is currently stalled by obstruction and the additional evidence.

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