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Syrian businessmen linked to Beirut blast explosives

A view of the Port of Beirut after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on 4th August in Beirut, Lebanon on August 13, 2020. [Aysu Biçer - Anadolu Agency]
A view of the Port of Beirut after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on 4th August in Beirut, Lebanon on 13 August 2020 [Aysu Biçer/Anadolu Agency]

Three Syrian businessmen have been linked to the purchase of the explosives that caused the Beirut blast last August. The link has been made in a documentary aired by Al-Jadeed on Tuesday.

Open-source information on the British government's Companies House website, cited in the documentary, shows that dual Russian-Syrian citizens George Haswani and brothers Imad and Mudalal Khuri have links to Savaro Limited. The company bought the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in July 2013, four months before it arrived in Beirut.

The highly volatile substance exploded on 4 August last year, destroying a huge part of the Lebanese capital. The blast killed 200 people, injured 6,500 and made more than 300,000 homeless.

The link was established after it was discovered that companies formerly run by Haswani and Imad Khuri have the same addresses as Savaro Limited. According to a report on Al Jazeera, the company is registered as a chemical trading organisation in Britain, but is likely to be a shell company as it has few employees, does little actual business and shares its address with dozens of other companies. Its registered director, Marina Psyllou, is also registered as an officer for at least 157 companies.

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Graham Barrow, a global money laundering expert, told Al Jazeera that Psyllou was likely a front person acting as director of Savaro in order to keep the real owners anonymous. On Tuesday, Psyllou submitted an application to dissolve and strike off the company.

Lebanon will rise up from its ashes - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Lebanon will rise up from its ashes – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Syrian trio have all been sanctioned by the US for providing services to the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Sanctions were imposed on Mudalal Khuri for, among other things, serving as an intermediary for Al-Assad's government "on an attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013," the US Treasury said in 2015. The alleged "attempted procurement" took place in the same period that the ammonium nitrate which caused the Beirut blast entered the Lebanese port.

Imad Khuri, added Al Jazeera, was sanctioned less than 12 months later for activities related to his brother's enterprises. Haswani was sanctioned in November 2015, alongside Mudalal, for his services as a middleman for oil purchases from Daesh by the Syrian regime.

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