UK lawmakers seek investigation into Beirut explosion-linked firm
The firm, Savaro Ltd, had not disclosed its beneficial owners, and like all British companies, is required to list its owners with the UK's Companies House.
Savaro’s owner Marina Psyllou told Reuters this week that she was acting as an agent on behalf of another beneficial owner, whose identity she could not disclose.
“The person who was and has always been the UBO (ultimate beneficial owner) of the company was always the same. As you should be aware, we cannot disclose his name,” she said. She did not state why she could not disclose his identity.
Savaro Ltd has the same address as businessmen George Haswani and brothers Imad and Mudalal Khuri. All three men were linked to the purchase of ammonium nitrate in July 2013 that was stored improperly at a Beirut warehouse, which triggered the explosion that killed over 200 civilians and devastated the city.
Haswani and the Khuri brothers are also sanctioned by the United States for alleged ties to Syria’s Bashar al Assad’s regime.
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Margaret Hodge, a British lawmaker and former Labour cabinet minister, called the apparent failure to list Savaro’s ultimate beneficiary at Companies House “outrageous”.
“The UK authorities should investigate this, given inaccurate information appears to have been filed. We need to challenge formation agents where it appears they may have acted improperly.”
John Mann, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, said the case showed the need for greater implementation of Britain’s company disclosure rules.
“It is shocking and very damaging to the reputation of the United Kingdom that Companies House and our national system of company registration can be so easily exploited,” he said.
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Psyllou wrote in an e-mail to Reuters on Thursday that her company “strictly complies with legislations and reports to relevant Regulators”.
She also denied this week that Savaro could have been linked to the Lebanon explosion, saying “as far as we know 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 realised.”
A Lebanese source said a sales contract for the ammonium nitrate fertiliser identified Savaro Ltd and listed it at the London address where the company was then registered with the UK authorities.
Hodge and Mann both called on Britain’s business ministry to investigate what they called an apparent breach of disclosure rules.