LONDON (Reuters) – Two senior UK lawmakers on Friday called for an investigation into a UK-listed company that may be linked to last year’s devastating explosion in Beirut after Reuters found it had not disclosed its beneficial owners.
The company, Savaro Ltd, is registered at a London address, and like all British companies are required to list their owners with a British company register, known as Companies House.
In an email to Reuters this week, the woman registered as owner and sole director of Savaro at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, told Reuters she was acting as an agent on behalf of another beneficial owner, whose identities she could not reveal.
“People who have been and have always been the UBO (the main beneficial owner) of the company are always the same. Please note, we cannot say his name, “he said. He didn’t say why he couldn’t reveal his identity.
Global corporate governance rules define UBO as someone who receives benefits from entity transactions, usually owning at least 25% of his capital.
Margaret Hodge, a British lawmaker and former cabinet minister who headed the parliament’s public affairs committee from 2010-2015, called the apparent failure to list Savaro’s main beneficiaries in Companies House “outrageous”.
“The British authorities should investigate this, given that inaccurate information appears to have been submitted. We need to challenge the formation agents who appear to have acted inappropriately. “
John Mann, a member of the British House of Lords who has investigated the use of UK-registered companies in illicit activities, said the case showed the need for stronger enforcement of UK company disclosure rules.
“It is shocking and very damaging to the UK’s reputation that Companies House and our national company registration system could easily be exploited,” he said.
Psyllou, which provides company registration for clients through her own Cyprus company Interstatus, said in a follow-up email to Reuters on Thursday that her company “strictly complies with the law and reports to relevant regulators”.
He also denied this week that Savaro may be linked to the Lebanon explosion, saying he believes the company has never done any business: “As far as we are concerned, the company, since its registration, has remained inactive with no trade or other activity. or keep any bank account because the project on which it was founded never materialized. “He did not provide further information on the company’s intended purpose.
A Reuters investigation last year of the blast in Beirut that killed 200 people found that a large shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that exploded in Lebanon had been held in Beirut on its way to Mozambique. The Mozambican buyer FEM identifies the company it bought it from as Savaro.
The Lebanese source said the fertilizer sales contract identified Savaro Ltd, and registered it at a London address where it was then registered with British authorities.
Tracking shipments could ultimately depend on revealing who stands behind Savaro, said Ben Cowdock, who is investigating international corruption for Transparency International in London.
Under a change to the law in 2016 – introduced as part of an anti-corruption campaign by Prime Minister David Cameron – it should be an immediate matter of seeking information with Companies House, Cowdock added.
The Psyllou Interstatus company has been registered since 2006 as company secretary for Savaro, is responsible for meeting its reporting requirements, and other Interstatus companies were originally registered as owners of Savaro.
In July 2016, three months after a Cameron-era rule change requiring companies to register their beneficial owners, Savaro updated his records to identify Psyllou himself as the owner.
MPs Hodge and Mann both asked the UK business ministry to investigate what they said appeared to be a breach of disclosure rules. The business ministry declined to comment, saying it does not discuss individual companies.
Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai, Ellen Francis in Beirut and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Edited by Peter Graff