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Lebanese lawyers have sued a UK-registered chemical company in the High Court in London over its alleged role in last year’s massive explosion in the port of Beirut that killed more than 200 people.
The lawsuit was filed against Savaro Ltd this month by the Beirut Bar and four others, including a survivor of the blast and the families of two who were killed. He alleges the chemical company failed to properly store or dispose of the hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that exploded on August 4 last year, causing one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.
Lawyers said the case was an attempt to hold those responsible for the blast to account, which devastated large areas of Beirut, killed at least 218 people, injured thousands more and caused an estimated 4 billion people. dollars of damage to the Lebanese capital.
The families of the victims are increasingly placing their hopes in international investigations to bring them justice, as they accuse the Lebanese ruling elite of having obstructed a national investigation.
This case is brought to London because Savaro, listed as a chemical wholesaler, is registered in the UK. The lawyers seek damages from the company, although these are quantified later.
The legal challenge argues that Savaro owned the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which in 2013 was intended for an explosives company in Mozambique. The aging ship carrying the cargo sank in the port of Beirut en route to southern Africa and the chemical material, which is used in explosives, was unloaded in 2014 at a port warehouse on the instruction of a Lebanese court.
Richard Slade, a lawyer for the eponymous law firm that represents Savaro, said the chemicals company “never negotiated” and did not complete the transactions mentioned in the claim.
Slade said the company would do its defense “in due course”. A new director of Savaro was appointed on Friday – Ukrainian lawyer Volodymyr Hliadchenko, who said he “acquired ownership of the company”.
The trial is led by Camille Abousleiman, former Lebanese Minister of Labor, and the Dechert law firm, of which he is a partner.
Abousleiman told the Financial Times that he believed Savaro was the owner of ammonium nitrate and as such, Savaro was responsible under Lebanese law for its storage, disposal and any damage. caused by it.
“The victims and surviving family members believe that anyone with direct or indirect responsibility for this explosion should be brought to justice, both criminal and civil, wherever there is jurisdiction,” Abousleiman said. “I believe that no one should escape justice in this particularly horrific situation.”
An FT investigation last year found that Savaro inquired about the shipment in 2015, but the FT was unable to confirm whether the company took further action after learning of a report released by a Lebanese court that more than half of the bags containing ammonium nitrate were damaged.
Since its incorporation in 2006, Savaro has often filed accounts as a “dormant” company.
“We are confident that we will have proof of the identity of the beneficial owner,” Abousleiman said last week, adding that he was seeking to include it in the claim. “We want to bring this person to justice either in England as part of the ongoing action or in some other way.” He declined to comment on the stated new owner.
Slade declined to comment on Savaro’s ownership.
The company had tried to start liquidation proceedings in January, but that process was interrupted by the lawsuit.
Abousleiman said other potential defendants could be prosecuted.