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Norwegian seismic company must answer before a US jury – E24

Norwegian seismic company must answer before a US jury – E24

A Swiss organization believes the Norwegian-American company TGS is responsible for the deadly explosion in Beirut in 2020. The case will now go before a US jury.

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August 4, 2020. A fire in a warehouse in the port of Beirut in Lebanon ignites several thousand tons of ammonium nitrate. What follows is one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history. More than 200 people die. 300,000 became homeless.

Three years later, no one has been held responsible yet.

That may change now.

Last summer, a lawsuit was filed against the Norwegian seismic company TGS in Texas, USA, for its role in the explosion. At the end of August, an important decision was issued by an American judge.

“Suspicious contracts”

It was the Swiss organization Accounting Now that filed a lawsuit against the company for 2.5 billion kroner ($250 million). The purpose of the organization is to hold accountable the actors who caused the economic and political collapse in Lebanon.

The organization represents a group of Lebanese Americans who were either in Beirut during the explosion or had family there.

One of the plaintiffs She saw her husband killed. last She lost her two-year-old son.

Three years after the explosion, the silo still stands as an open wound in the city, in memory of the tragedy.  Few Lebanese believe anyone will be held accountable.

The ammonium nitrate that exploded came from the ship Rhosus. It was not actually intended to visit Beirut, but was hired in 2013 by TGS subsidiary Spectrum to carry out the mission. TGS bought Spectrum in 2019.

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When the Rhosus arrived in Beirut, the Lebanese port authorities detained the ship for several reasons. A long legal battle began, which after several months led to the transfer of chemicals from the ship to the port warehouse.

In August last year, Accountability Now filed a lawsuit on the grounds that Spectrum had arranged for the ship loaded with ammonium nitrate to arrive in Beirut.

They say that Spectrum entered into a series of “highly lucrative but questionable contracts with Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy.” Since then, the organization’s lawyers have been trying to obtain documentation of Spectrum’s actions in Lebanon.

For their part, TGS’s lawyers tried to dismiss the lawsuit before it went to court.

On August 31, it became clear that they had failed.

On August 4 of this year, demonstrators across Lebanon commemorated three years since the explosion, without holding anyone accountable.  Hundreds remembered their loved ones.

Go before the jury

in press release From Impeachment Now it appears that Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt has decided to reject all attempts by TGS to dismiss the case. Instead, he concluded that:

  • All necessary documents must be submitted and evidence must be exchanged between both parties.
  • The court also allowed obtaining the necessary evidence and summoning witnesses from countries other than the United States.
  • The process continues toward a jury trial. No trial date has been set.

According to the organization, TGS agreed in August to hand over all necessary documents.

In an email to E24, Sven Bori Larsen, CFO of TGS and President of Spectrum Geo AS, wrote that they are aware of the latest decision.

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– This does not change TGS’s position that the plaintiff’s allegations are baseless. Beyond that, TGS does not comment on ongoing legal processes.

The head of the accounting department now, Zeina Wakim, tells the Emirati newspaper the National The judges’ decision constitutes a step towards accountability, and their goal is justice for all victims, in Lebanon and abroad.

I wasn’t really going to Beirut

The lawsuit is based on a number of events in 2013 and 2014.

At the time, the ship Rhosus was en route from Georgia to Mozambique carrying 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. the ship I didn’t really want to visit Beirut, but on the way it was rented by Spectrum Geo Ltd. The company “Spectrum” was conducting seismic surveys off the coast of Beirut, and was scheduled to transport the equipment from the Lebanese capital to Aqaba in Jordan.

The accountability organization now believes there is evidence that the ship was overloaded and unfit to carry seismic equipment — and that Spectrum knew about it.

When the ship attempted to load equipment on board, the cargo hatch broke. Damage, along with Economic problems For the shipowner, this meant that the ship was detained by port authorities, and subsequently seized. As the months passed, the ship’s condition deteriorated and the dangerous cargo was transferred from Rhosus to the port warehouse in Beirut. It remained there for six years before it exploded.

The warehouse building in which the ammonium nitrate was stored caught fire on August 4, 2020. When the flames reached the chemicals, it led to one of the largest non-chemical explosions in history.

No one is responsible

The Lebanese investigation into the incident has since collapsed Many prominent Lebanese politicians have become involved in the case.

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Several, among others European ParliamentHe called for an independent international investigation.

In June this year, the company that owns the ammonium nitrate, Savaro Limited, registered in Britain, He was ordered to pay $1 million In compensation for victims.

But the company, owned by a Ukrainian parent company, decided at that time to dissolve itself.