By Tom Bergin
LONDON (Reuters) - A Lebanese lawyers' association has asked British authorities to halt the voluntary liquidation of a UK-registered company over possible links to last year's explosion at Beirut port, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
In the Jan. 25 letter to British lawmaker Margaret Hodge, the Beirut Bar Association (BBA) said it had asked the UK corporate registry, Companies House, to prevent the company, Savaro Ltd., which it described as an "indicted entity", from being wound up in order to allow investigations into its possible role in the blast to continue.
The letter from BBA president Melhem Khalaf asserts that Savaro has been indicted by the Lebanese judge in charge of the investigation, and that allowing Savaro to be wound up "before the end of the judicial proceedings would permit an indicted entity to evade justice".
The letter marks the first time that the possible indictment of Savaro has come to public light.
Reuters was unable to confirm whether and when Savaro was indicted. The judge, the Lebanese justice ministry and Khalaf did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter.
The woman listed as Savaro's owner and sole director at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, did not respond to requests for comment on the letter. Companies House, which has the power to delay corporate liquidations, said it did not comment on individual cases.
On Jan. 12, Psyllou submitted a request to Companies House to wind up Savaro, which had filed updates each year since 2008 saying it was dormant.
Psyllou told Reuters last week she was acting as an agent for Savaro on behalf of another beneficial owner, whose identity she could not disclose. She denied that Savaro could have been linked to the Lebanon explosion, saying she believed it had never done any business.
A Reuters investigation last year into the Beirut blast that killed 200 people found that the huge shipment of ammonium nitrate fertiliser that exploded had been held in Beirut while en route to Mozambique. The Mozambican buyer, FEM, identified the company it bought it from as Savaro.
In the letter to Hodge, the BBA said Savaro's name and address "appears on documents in its capacity as purchaser of the High-Density Ammonium Nitrate cargo that eventually exploded in August 2020".
Hodge last week called for a British investigation into Savaro.
According to the letter, the BBA has been awarded plaintiff capacity in the case, which gave it access to details of the official investigation into the blast.
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Additional reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut; Editing by Nick Tattersall)