Van Anraat and the chemical solution

20 December 2004 by HEIKELKINA VERRIJN STUART

Dutchman Frans Van Anraat recently declared in a television interview that his deliveries of chemical substances to Iraq was just something he had done on the side. He had received a request from Iraq and had successfully delivered. Had he not done it, somebody else would have, he said. At the time, the Dutch public prosecutor had contemplated charging him with export violations, but since the crimes took place in the late 1980s, it was too late. The crimes would be considered prescriptible. On 6 December, 2004, the businessman was arrested and charged with complicity in genocide and war crimes.

Although there is no indictment yet and a trial date has not been set, the public prosecutor announced that Van Anraat is being held on suspicion of involvement in 36 deliveries to Iraq between 1984 and 1988 of a substance called thiodiglycol, used for the production of mustard gas and employed in the Iraq-Iran war during the late 1980s. Van Anraat's deliveries have been linked to the gassing of Kurds in the north-eastern town of Halabja in 1988, resulting in 5000 deaths and numerous casualties. The thiodiglycol is thought to have travelled all the way from the United States or Japan through the Belgium harbour of Antwerp and Aqaba in Jordan to Iraq, where it was processed and used. Van Anraat is believed to have managed his business from Lugano in Switzerland.

Two decades of international investigations

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