‘Fool Me Twice’? Imhausen Believed Building Second Poison Gas Factory In Libya

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The Center for Security Policy today released an unclassified U.S. government cable reporting that the West German company, Imhausen, is suspected of having developed and delivered plans to Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi for a second poison gas factory in that country. This action follows by just eight weeks the conviction and sentencing of Imhausen’s president, Juergen Hippenstiel-Imhausen in connection with the construction in Libya of the notorious Rabta chemical weapons complex. Rabta is reportedly capable of producing 40 tons of chemical weapons daily and is said to be the largest chemical weapons factory in the Third World.

According to the cable transmitted to the State Department on 10 August 1990 from the American consulate in Stuttgart, the plans for a new facility, called "Pharma 200," are believed by the Mannheim, Germany prosecutor’s office to be associated with a new poison gas factory in the Sebha Oasis, 650 kilometers south of Tripoli.

The cable also reveals that Imhausen is suspected of having defrauded the German government of research funds to support the second Libyan chemical weapons plant. The company is reported to have falsified documents used to justify a grant of 19.6 million Deutsche marks for exploration of coal liquification technologies in order to defray costs of personnel associated with the Pharma 200 program.

"This episode is but the latest in a series of appalling German transfers of high technologies with lethal applications to those disposed to employ them against Western interests," Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., the Center’s director, said. "The fact that Imhausen could consider selling not one but two chemical weapons plants to Libya — the second going forward even as the company was under investigation for the first — is a damning indictment not only of the blind greed of the company involved but also of the German government, itself."

Gaffney added, "Bonn has systematically looked the other way on the misdeeds of German companies like Imhausen, ignoring, making excuses for or meting out trivial penalties to those who have sold nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile technologies to renegade nations like Iraq and Libya. This behavior makes it all the more incredible that the United States is allowing the Germans to dictate the pace and magnitude of the dismantling of Western export controls now underway."

In fact the latest revelation about Imhausen seems even too much for the normally sympathetic State Department. The cable comments that "…Planning a second poison gas plant while the first one is already under investigation, shows a degree of coldbloodedness or stupidity in which extenuating circumstances play no part."

Section 11A(h) of the Export Administration Act authorizes the president both to prohibit the import of products or services from Imhausen into the United States and to block Imhausen from participating in any U.S. government contracts for up to five years. The Center believes that the President should utilize the authority available to him under existing law to impose the maximum penalty against Imhausen for its role in the construction of the Rabta plant — much less a new, sister facility. If the President does not do so, the United States Congress, which is currently considering legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on companies knowingly contributing to the spread of chemical weapons, should act on this case immediately upon its return from the August recess.

A copy of the cable entitled "Imhausen: Plans for a Second Poison Gas Plant in Libya?" is attached.

Center for Security Policy

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