Savaro Ltd, a Chemical Trading Company, Found Guilty of Causing Deadly Blast in Beirut Port That Killed 218
In August 2020, a huge explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, killed 218 people. The cause was determined to be a fire that ignited a cargo of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that had brought to the port on the MV Rhosus, a ship registered to Savaro Ltd., a UK company. Victims’ families sued Savoro in UK courts – and in February the High Court of Justice in London ruled that Savoro needs to compensate the affected families.
“It is a sign of hope for us and the Lebanese, that justice exists somewhere. It gives courage and strength to continue." – Paul Naggear, one of the plaintiffs, whose 3 year-old daughter was killed in the explosion
Savaro Ltd. bought 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in 2013 from Rustavi Azot, a chemical factory in the country of Georgia. The chemicals were loaded on MV Rhosus with a final destination of Mozambique where it was destined to be delivered to an explosives company, but the ship was impounded in Beirut where the cargo was abandoned for seven years.
Marina Psyllou is listed as the sole director and owner of Savaro but she told Reuters news agency that she was an agent acting on behalf of the true owner, whom she could not identify. Some suspect that the actual destination of the MV Rhosus was Syria where it could have been turned into explosives by the government of Bashar al-Asaad.
“Why do you need to use a shell company to buy this? It means the seller and buyer can claim to have no responsibility – and it hides the identity of the real owners.” – Firas Hatoum, investigative reporter for news channel Al Jadeed in Lebanon
In August 2020, the fertilizer caught fire resulting in a powerful explosion that resembled an earthquake of 3.5 magnitude on the Richter scale. In addition to killing 218 people, over 7,000 people were injured and wide swaths of the city of Beirut were destroyed, including the houses of 300,000 people, with estimated damages of some $15 billion.
The Beirut Bar Association, alongside three victims’ families filed a civil suit against Savaro in 2021 in London. On January 31 2023, the court ruled that Savoro was liable and ordered hearings to be conducted in June 2023 to determine the amount of compensation that should paid to the families.
Accountability Now and some victims’ families have also sued TGS, the owner of a company that allegedly sub-chartered the ship. That lawsuit is being heard in a court in Texas. An investigation into the incident in Lebanon has stalled, though, after judges clashed over the matter this past January resulting in a chaotic collapse to the proceedings.
“The company in question, ever since its registration, remained dormant without any trading or other activity or keeping any bank accounts as the project for which it was incorporated was never realized. As you should be aware, we cannot disclose [the] name of the UBO (ultimate beneficial owner) of the company." – Marina Psyllou, director and owner of Savaro
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