German Businessman Charged With Helping Build Libyan Plant
BONN, West Germany (AP) _ A West German businessman on Thursday was indicted on charges he helped build a Libyan plant, which the United States says produced chemical weapons before it was damaged by fire last week.
Juergen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, former head of the Imhausen-Chemie chemical company, was charged with violating West Germany’s export laws and with tax evasion.
Also Thursday, a government official said Libya had stopped payments to West German firms and interrupted trade, claiming West German intelligence was involved in the fire. West Germany denied the accusation and issued a formal protest over the suspension of payments.
Mannheim prosecutor Peter Wechsung charged that Hippenstiel-Inhausen had a ″decisive role″ in the planning and construction of the Rabta complex, about 60 miles outside Tripoli.
Court officials said the trial may begin in the summer.
Wechsung said the businessman sent Libya ″documents on production″ as well as ″measuring and regulating instruments″ to be used at Rabta. He said investigators had concluded that the plant was ″solely intended″ to produce poison gases.
Libya has said the plant was only making pharmaceuticals.
Wechsung also said that West Germany’s federal police had created a special ″Rabta″ unit consisting of 20 officials who took part in the investigation.
Speaking to reporters in Mannheim, Wechsung said about 3,000 files containing documents, plans and other material had been confiscated in the investigation and that statements were taken from more than 200 witnesses.
Wechsung did not say whether other arrests were expected.
Hippenstiel-Imhausen resigned as head of the company a year ago and was arrested Oct. 5.
A number of West German companies were invesitigated a little more than a year ago after U.S. charges that German firms had helped build the plant. Only Hippenstiel-Imhausen has been arrested.
The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, quoting government officials, reported Libya has ″blocked trade with West Germany since last week″ to protest the fire, which caused severe damage to the plant.
Libyan exports to West Germany last year amounted to $1.85 billion, most of it oil. West German exports to Libya last year were valued at $780 million.
West German Ambassador Joerg Helmer went to the Libyan foreign office in Tripoli ″to express our displeasure″ with the Libyan actions, said a government official in Bonn.
The official, speaking on condition of anonmymity, said Libya had also barred a ship carrying Libyan oil from reaching its destination in West Germany.