Company Suspected of Working on Second Chemical Weapons Plant
WEST BERLIN (AP) _ A West German company involved in the construction of a Libyan plant alleged to produce chemical weapons may have supplied plans for a second such facility, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Juergen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, the head of the Imhausen-Chemie company, was found guilty in June of shipping materials for the Libyan plant. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Mannheim prosecutor Peter Wechsung said 80 police officers raided various homes and offices Wednesday, seeking clues about the latest suspicions regarding Imhausen-Chemie.
Wechsung told The Associated Press that ″at the end of 1988, when there were the first signs of the company’s involvement in the Libyan affair, the firm had already been at work on the second facility.″
According to prosecutors, the Imhausen company delivered the plans for the second plant in violation of West Germany’s export laws.
Wechsung, whose office has jurisdiction in the case, added that Imhausen is suspected of having used federal research funds to pay employees involved in the second project.
The prosecutor did not say how far the second project may have gotten, or where it was to have been located. He also did not say what led officials to suspect that plans for a second plant were under way.
Suedwestfunk, the state radio station in southern Baden-Wuerttemberg, said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi planned to build it in Sabhah deep, in the desert. The first plant was built in Rabta, about 50 miles from Tripoli.
Disclosures about German involvement in the Rabta plant strained relations between Washington and Bonn for several months starting in December 1988.
The United States alleged the plant was intended to produce chemical weapons. Gadhafi denied it and said the plant was making pharmaceuticals.
On June 27, a Mannheim superior court found Hippenstiel-Imhausen guilty of violating export laws and tax evasion in connection with the plant at Rabta.
Chief Judge Juergen Henniger said that based on the testimony of expert witnesses, the court concluded that the Rabta plant ″was clearly intended for the production of chemical warfare agents.″
Henniger said the plant was capable of producing mustard gas and other poison gases, and that Hippenstiel-Imhausen was aware of its intended purposes.
Hippenstiel-Imhausen, 49, confessed in June to helping in construction but said he did not know the plant was intended to make poison gas.
The Rabta plant was reportedly damaged by fire under mysterious circumstances earlier this year.
The United States initially said the blaze caused heavy damage to the plant, but later news reports said U.S. officials believed the fire was a hoax.