Syrian businessmen linked to purchase of devastating Beirut explosives

Syrian businessmen linked to purchase of devastating Beirut explosives
Three Syrian businessmen who have been sanctioned by the US over their alleged ties to the regime, have been linked to the purchase of ammonium nitrate.
2 min read
14 January, 2021
The blast claimed the lives of more than 200 people [Getty]
The purchase of the ammonium nitrate that fuelled a deadly explosion at Beirut's port in August last year has been linked to three Syrian businessmen with alleged ties to Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Media reports and UK government filings connected Syrian-Russian dual nationals George Haswani and brothers Imad and Mudalal Khuri with the 2013 purchase of chemicals that years later would claim the lives of more than 200 people in Beirut.

Information published on Companies House, the British government's registrar of companies, shows that firms previously directed by Haswani and Imad Khuri have the same addresses as the company that purchased the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in July 2013 that were stored improperly at a Beirut warehouse.

The company, Savaro Limited, also lists as a secretary a firm that also provided similar services to a company directed by Imaud Khuri. 

The links between the Syrian businessmen and the Beirut explosion were initially reported by documentary filmmaker Firas Hatoum on Lebanese news channel Al Jadeed.

All three men have been sanctioned by the United States over their alleged ties with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Mudalal Khuri was sanctioned for serving as an intermediary for the Assad regime's "attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013", among other things. Imad Khuri was later sanctioned for "providing support" to his brother's activities.

The ammonium nitrate shipment entered the Beirut port in October 2013, where it languished before igniting in August last year.

The International Network on Explosive Weapons accuses the Assad regime of using the material - which is commonly used as a fertiliser - in the production of weapons such as barrel bombs.

Savaro's registered director, Marina Pysyllou, filed to dissolve the company on Tuesday, the same day Hatoum reported its links with the Syrian businessmen.

It is suspected to be a shell company designed to mask the real identity of its owners. Tell-tale signs of its status as a shell company are the use of its registered address for dozens of other companies - such as one directed by Haswani - and little-to-no real employees.

Hatoum has called on a Lebanese investigator to look into the origins of the ammonium nitrate shipment that wreaked havoc on Beirut last year.

Fadi Sawan has so far focused on charging locals with criminal negligence for failing to remove the explosive material from the port.

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