London court charges British company $1 million in damages for Beirut blast victims

Beirut Port Explosion Blast Site

A London court has levied damages worth more than £800,000 ($1 million) on a British-registered company to compensate the victims of Beirut’s 2020 port explosion.

This represents the first verdict of its kind, according to a Lebanon-based lawyers’ group.

On 4 August 2020, a devastating explosion occurred at a port in Beirut resulting in the loss of over 220 lives.

The explosion was triggered by a massive shipment of ammonium nitrate fertiliser which had been sold by Savaro Ltd, a British-registered company.

In a case filed by the Beirut Bar Association on behalf of the victims of the blast, the High Court in London found Savaro Ltd liable for the loss of life, personal injuries, and property damages on 31 January, Reuters reported.

According to the Association, Savaro was ordered on 12 June to compensate three relatives of deceased victims with £100,000 ($126,415) each, along with interest.

Additionally, a wounded woman was awarded slightly over £500,000 ($632,285) in damages.

Reuters also reported earlier in the year that former Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, and two former ministers faced charges for homicide with probable intent in connection with the explosion.

“It’s the first time that any court anywhere renders decisions as to liability and damages in the Beirut port explosion after approximately three years,” said legal lawyer of Dechert LLP, Camille Abou Sleiman.

“It’s the first ray of hope in the long march to justice and closure for the victims,” Abou Sleiman informed Reuters.

READ: Port of Beirut explosion leaves supply chain in tatters

Savaro’s owner and sole Director at Britain’s Companies House, Marina Psyllou, informed Reuters that she was acting on behalf of another beneficial owner whose identity remains anonymous.

It thus remains unclear who will pay the damages, Reuters reported.

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.

READ: Beirut container terminal suffers only minor damage

“Everything that is moving forward is outside of the country,” said claimant, Paul Naggear.

“It shows you how much they’ve obstructed things in Lebanon. It was really good to hear this news, because it’s progress.”

Moreover, Lebanon’s internal investigations around the explosion have encountered their own turbulence.

Judge, Tarek Bitar, faced charges of usurping powers after filing his own charges against high-ranking security and political officials regarding their involvement in the blast.

In May 2022, the United Nations (UN) agreed to a $10 million grant to help Lebanon mitigate the impacts of the Beirut port and support reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the Government of Lebanon announced the launch of an auction to reconstruct the Port of Beirut following the explosion.

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