Savaro ordered to pay £800,000 compensation for 2020 Beirut explosion

A court in the UK has ordered a British firm to pay £800,000 in compensation to some of the families impacted by the 2020 explosion which devastated the port of Beirut and part of the city itself. The explosion(s) caused some $15bn in property damage.

A hearing was held before the High Court of Justice in London on Tuesday June 13th in the civil lawsuit that was filed in August 2021 against Savaro Ltd by some of the Beirut Port explosion’s victims, represented by the Prosecution Office of the Beirut Bar Association. The court granted compensation to the victims.

The court ruled an amount of £100,000 for each of the three plaintiffs in compensation for the moral damage resulting from the death of a victim and an amount exceeding £500,000 for a wounded victim in compensation for her moral and physical harm and covering her medical expenses.

The London-registered chemical trading firm Savaro was responsible for delivering the ammonia nitrate that exploded in the port in August 2020, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 6,000 others. The event was one of the largest man-made explosions in history. The blasts have been documented as the most powerful accidental artificial non-nuclear explosions in history.

Savaro had chartered the shipment of the ammonium nitrate in 2013 that ended up in Beirut.

The Beirut Bar Association, along with four victims’ families, filed a lawsuit against Savaro in August 2021 after UK authorities blocked the firm’s attempts to dissolve the company.

However, the chance of the victims getting any money out of Savaro are between very low and zero. The backers of Savaro have not been discovered.

Savaro’s owner and sole Director at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, informed Reuters that she was acting on behalf of another beneficial owner whose identity remains anonymous. In 2021 Psyllou filed a request with Companies House to initiate the winding-up process for Savaro. The Beirut Bar Association subsequently urged British authorities to intervene and prevent the voluntary liquidation of Savaro.

IMN has previously covered the part Savaro played in the shipping of the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate on board the Moldova-flagged Rhosus in 2013 (IMN August 17th 2020).

The captain and two crew members said the ship’s de facto owner was Igor Grechushkin. After the vessel was left in Beirut, creditors accused the ship’s legal owner, listed as a Panama-based firm, of abandoning the vessel. Because of this action the cargo was later unloaded and put in a dockside warehouse, where it ended up staying, in a deteriorating condition, until it exploded. The Rhosus eventually sank where it was moored in 2018.

The Rhosus was reported to be uninsured and a classic “rust bucket” tramper that seemed to carry a variety of cargo from anywhere to anywhere.

The Mozambican firm that ordered the ammonium nitrate, Fábrica de Explosivos Moçambique (FEM), was not the cargo owner at the time, because it had agreed to pay only on delivery. The producer was Georgian fertilizer maker Rustavi Azot LLC, which by the time of the explosion had been dissolved. Its owner at the time, businessman Roman Pipia, told Reuters in 2020 that he had lost control of the Rustavi ammonium nitrate plant in 2016.

FEM said it had ordered the shipment through a trading firm, Savaro Ltd, which had registered companies in London and Ukraine. However, Savaro Ltd’s listed London address was a Victorian terraced house in Shoreditch, where no-one appeared to be living.

At the time Savaro Ltd director Greta Bieliene, a Lithuanian based in Cyprus, declined to answer questions. Cyprus, Russia and Ukraine and connections between the three kept cropping up. Savaro’s UK registration looks more than likely to be a result of the fact that companies are remarkably easy to set up in the UK without too much checking of the company’s credential.

Reuters said at the time that Savaro sold fertilizer from ex-Soviet Union states to clients in Africa.

Ukraine-based businessman Vladimir Verbonol was listed as a director of Savaro in Ukraine.