The detective who participated in the arrest of the Lebanese chemist Dr Michel (Massoud) Stephan last fall told, among other things, that the police received a statement saying that Dr Stephan urged his fellow inmate to murder a protected witness and some others.
Let us start the article with the horrific facts, which were revealed at the last hearing in the case of Dr Michel Stephan. The Lebanese chemist, brought to Slovenia from France by Dr Barbara Mohar, is charged with incitement to murder of a former colleague from the Chemical Institute, Dr Janez Plavec. Stephan allegedly acted with bad inclinations and there is also alleged weapon trafficking in the background of this case. The prosecution is convinced that Stephan was motivated by revenge and hatred, since he supposedly blamed the head of the NMR Center at the Institute, Dr Plavec, for his still valid ban on entering the Institute and Plavec’s alleged disabling of his new recruitment. By the way, his real name is Michel Massoud Stephan. His former colleague, who is also his partner, said that Dr Stephan belongs to the Orthodox Church. This was all evidenced by the detective, involved in Stephan's arrest, on 12 November 2018.
Ordering the Murder of a Protected Witness
Among other things, the detective involved in Stephan's arrest last fall, told that the police received a statement saying Dr Stephan urged his fellow inmate to murder a protected witness. The detective stated that he received a call, some days after Dr Stephan was already in custody, from lawyer Jože Hribernik, telling him that he had a client with him who claimed that Dr Stephan urged his fellow inmate to kill a protected witness. This person is named as Ali in the trial and, following the accusations from the indictment, Stephan tried to persuade Ali to murder Dr Plavec. After the call, Hribernik's client was questioned by the police and were referred to Stephan's fellow inmate, who then told the police that Dr Stephan incited him to murder Ali and some others. The aforementioned prisoner, Stephan’s fellow inmate, should have spoken about this in the court, however he excused himself due to bad health. The prosecutor confirmed to the press that due to the suspicion of a criminal offense in this case, she submitted to the court a motion for a judicial investigation, which the court has not yet decided on.
During the hearing, the detective confirmed that Dr Stephan was reported to the police by Ali, after he had been incited to the murder of Dr Plavec. Ali then started assisting the police. They wired him and secretly recorded his meetings with Dr Stephan. The latter was arrested after he gave Ali a photo of Dr Plavec and a gun to kill him.
What About the Amphetamine?
To understand the background of the events, we should point out some facts from the testimonies of Stephan's former close associates. Recalling what was said at the hearing on 17 September, that one of the employees, under investigation at the Institute, handed over a document to criminal investigators, which he wrote some time ago as an insurance policy in case something happened to him. From the document, parts of which were read at the time, it follows that under the orders of Dr Mohar in cooperation with Dr Stephan, the laboratory of the Institute made certain compounds and then sold them to the Krka company, while the Phosphoenix company was to receive the money.
Moreover, witnesses were questioned (November 5th), claiming to be Stephan's colleagues in the laboratory L 08. Dr Stephan was actually their superior since he led the scientific research at the laboratory. The first one said that Dr Stephan communicated with the rest in the laboratory as if he were superior and his attitude was primarily perceived by the witness as mobbing. Among other things, Dr Stephan was taking it out on one of his colleagues and on him, because he thought he should have been doing things differently. They did not get into a bigger conflict with Dr Stephan when the head of the laboratory Dr Barbara Mohar went on maternity leave and Dr Plavec replaced her temporarily. The witness said that, at that time, he and another co-worker went to Dr Plavec. They revealed to him that the Institute of Chemistry purchased and developed certain ingredients and then sold them to the Krka company and that the money for this was received by Stephan's company Phosphoenix. One of his colleagues said that he knew Dr Stephan worked for Krka, because once when Dr Stephan was not at work, they called from Krka and wondered if something was done. Only Dr Mohar knew about this. They only knew that Dr Stephan brought his equipment to the Chemical Institute. This was something that was agreed on with the director back then (Peter Venturini, AN). It is also interesting that the quantities of chemicals (chemicals that were transformed into another substance for catalysts and ligands) significantly exceeded the amounts for which Krka had a contract with the Institute. It was 10,000 times the value. This was going on in 2008 and the chemicals were ordered by Dr Mohar. When the latter went on maternity leave, a former colleague was questioned on this, however he did not know who made the order.
Stephan’s former subordinate employee also testified that he was told that chemists were running out of amphetamines from the laboratory. Dr Stephan denied the use of amphetamines: "They had five thousand chemicals in the laboratory, how is it these two noticed that precisely this chemical was running out?" Asked Dr Stephan. "It was written on the packaging," said the witness. Dr Stephan then asked how they could be sure that what was inside was actually amphetamine. Dr Stephan said that amphetamine was never used and no purchase of it was reported anywhere, therefore it could not have disappeared.
Contacts with Amsterdam Mafia
"One work day after this, Stephan called me to the office and threatened me with death. He said, among other things, that he knows where I live and that he will put a bomb under my car, on the grounds that he already had experience with this in Lebanon, where the civil war was raging", said Stephan's colleague, who soon left the Institute after the incident. He also said that from then on, he occasionally looked under the car to check if something was really placed there. He started checking regularly after the former director of the Chemical Institute, Dr Janko Jamnik, was killed. He thought that things could be connected. Dr Stephan had, at some point, also prided himself on having good contacts with the Amsterdam Mafia.
Another co-worker, who testified on November 5, described Dr Stephan as a good and enthusiastic scientist, yet a man who wants to control everything and quickly gets angry if he does not get his way. He said that Dr Stephan even got into a fight with one of his colleagues once, because he thought he was working too slowly. He confirmed that he, together with his colleague who allegedly received the death threat by Dr Stephan, went to Dr Plavec in August 2008, telling him that the Chemical Institute purchased chemicals, later processed them and finally sold them to Krka and that the money was received by Phosphoenix. The value of the transaction, according to him, was supposedly worth tens of thousands of euros. He stated that he felt that Dr Plavec responded too hesitantly to the whole matter. When asked what could have led Dr Stephan to order the murder of Plavec, he replied: "Plavec was a successful person, one that Michel wanted to be as well". He also said that in 2010, after he left the Institute, he met for a coffee with Dr Jamnik, who was interested to know if Stephan could be violent. "Namely, he suspected some irregularities, therefore he wanted to remove Stephan from the Institute", he added.
Dr Stephan denied that he threatened anyone at any time, especially those with whom he worked. In relation to the deal with Krka, he said that the Chemical Institute had a contract with it.
Where Did the Profit Go?
On November 5, a former student (2004-2011) appeared as a witness. He worked at the Chemistry Institute, where he completed his doctorate. He said that he worked mostly in the group with Dr Mohar and then from the end of 2010 with Dr Plavec. He knew that Dr Mohar did not want the laboratory to be abolished. He said that people left the laboratory because of bad relations, bad working conditions or unpaid overtime work. This witness also confirmed that certain ingredients were being worked on at the Chemical Institute and sold to companies. He wondered where the profit went.
Dr Stephan and Dr Mohar had the Phosphoenix company, he confirmed, adding that they had been working with Krka from 2008 to 2010. There were kilogram quantities of different substances being made that were not cheap. The interrogated witness confirmed the testimony of the other two interrogated colleagues that they pointed out all these things to Dr Plavec. The consequence of this was that one of them was soon out of a job at the Chemical Institute. The former student said he was only interested in finishing the doctorate and going on with his life at the time. He is trying to consciously erase from his memory even all the bad things that happened at the Institute.
The former student also said that back then they planned to give money to young researchers for conferences, however this money was not spent. He is also convinced that in an organized multinational company, such things as were going on at the Chemistry Institute, could never occur, because if you report irregularities, such company will protect you. They are protecting only each other’s backs at the Institute of Chemistry, he was sure of it, always. The laying off of one was a result of this warning of irregularities. The deceased Dr Jamnik knew this. "Someone who wants to do something good has to be protected", he repeated, adding that "everybody is only looking after him/herself at the Chemistry Institute".
What is also interesting is that in the basement of the Institute, where the warehouse is located, chemicals were found, which were not used. For example, a piperonal used for the synthesis of ecstasy, 5 kg of cyanide... "There were also chemicals found in the chemicals’ bank that were used when you wanted to experiment. Michel liked to browse in the warehouse. He even went to other companies and brought waste chemicals to the Institute of Chemistry several times", said the former student. However, Dr Stephan replied that it was the student who used the piperonal for his doctorate. The former student said he would check, though he thinks he did not.
On the last hearing, on November 12, the former director of the Institute of Chemistry Dr Peter Venturini and one of the former staff members at the Institute were questioned. The latter said that he had a good opinion of Dr Stephan because he was devoted to science and worked a lot. Indeed, this dedication could, in his view, be the reason for ordering the murder of Dr Plavec. He infers that Dr Stephan, after having to leave the Institute in 2010, tried to return. However, "he may have realized the obstacle for this", Dr Plavec. Plavec had taken over the management of the department in which Stephan worked. Plavec supposedly was not too sympathetic towards Dr Stephan. This was confirmed by the Director of the Institute Dr Venturini, who said that it was widely known that relations between Dr Plavec and Dr Stephan were not particularly good. He learned this from the contacts with his employees after he himself left the Institute in 2008. The former employee Dr Roman Jerala stated, before Dr Venturini was questioned, that Dr Plavec complained to him once that the laboratory where Dr Stephan led the research did not have funds and that they worked past the Institute to get payed. Specifically, this arrangement was supposedly a matter of cooperation with Krka. Stephan's Phosphoenix company was supposed to sell compounds for which the chemicals were commissioned and processed by the Institute.
Dr Jamnik Took Measures to Enhance Security
They also questioned the former security officer of the Institute, who confirmed that Dr Stephan, after failing to extend his contracts, was banned from entering the Institute and that for some time, the Institute also had enhanced security. The measure was introduced by the late director Dr Janko Jamnik because he felt threatened by Stephan's threats, said the security guard.
The question arising at the trial is on the whereabouts of the employment contract, which the Chemical Institute had made with Dr Michel Stephan, since the court only received annexes to this contract. We were warned that we could learn more on this from Dr Janez Toplišek, the secretary of the Institute back then, who “made the contracts". A long-term employee at the Institute of Chemistry has warned us about this. Now, the same claim is being made by the retired Dr Jože Kobe, who had already been questioned before the court. In the official document of the Ministry of the Interior (Police) entitled Case: Janko Jamnik, murder – we send the official bookmark and CD, Subject: talk 18. 12. 2017, it says: "Stephan was also very quick to get a work permit. Stephan first worked as a volunteer, however, nobody knew what exactly he was doing there (he thought this was in 2001-2002). How Stephan became a co-worker of the Institute is not clear to him, as there are precisely prescribed procedures for this. However, Kobe did not go into the details at that time". Kobe is convinced that the murder of Dr Jamnik is connected with the Stephan case and that Dr Novič did not commit the murder, as evidenced by this official note.
Something to Think About
When monitoring the criminal events associated with the Chemical Institute, we wonder why such a reputable institution did not carry out an external financial audit of the transactions (also with the Donit company, which initially paid Dr Stephan’s lawyer, as stated at the last hearing)! Thus, coming to the bottom of things. This would prevent possible further criminal activities. God forbid another murder.