NEW: Just over a year after the massive Beirut port explosion, OCCRP has answered one of the biggest questions of the disaster: Who owned the shipment of ammonium nitrate that blew up, killing over 200? 1/…
The dormant UK company that owned the 2,750 ton cargo, Savaro Ltd, has until now been hidden behind proxy owners and directors. But OCCRP can now reveal it is in fact controlled by a Ukrainian businessman, Volodymyr Verbonol, and partners. 2/
Verbonol’s Ukrainian partners include his father-in-law, a prominent businessman. Since the 2000s, the Savaro network has also hidden behind a web of offshore companies, and has traded in chemicals including the type of ammonium nitrate typically used to make explosives. 3/
Documents show it was Savaro that chartered the ship that carried the ammonium nitrate, the MV Rhosus, in 2013. The FBI has since concluded much of the chemicals were pilfered from the port before the remainder exploded on August 4, 2020. 4/
Reporters also found that the network sent at least three other shipments of ammonium nitrate, totaling over 17,000 metric tons, to the Rhosus’s intended destination, Mozambique, in 2013. 5/
The new revelations may soon have legal implications, too. Lebanese lawyers and blast victims recently filed a lawsuit in London against Savaro, arguing the company bears significant responsibility for the disaster. 6/
This investigation comes a year after OCCRP’s last investigation into the Beirut explosion, which uncovered the true owner of the MV Rhosus, as well as other details about businesses connected to the shipment.

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More from @OCCRP

9 Sep
NEW: A network of mobile app publishing companies appears to have infected millions of phones with malware designed to generate fraudulent ad revenue.

A number of these companies are linked to a Russian firm formerly known as Adeco. 1/…
A tool developed by Adeco, known as Net2Share, allowed users to clone existing apps that were available on app stores.

But Net2Share had a hidden feature, according to a whistleblower.

Every cloned app was also infected with malware that financially benefited Adeco. 2/
Techniques deployed by this malware included spamming fake ad-views and spawning invisible browsers on infected phones, thereby generating what may have amounted to millions in fraudulent revenues. 3/
Read 7 tweets
8 Sep
NEW: #ChinaTobacco, the world’s largest cigarette company, has been credited with turning Zimbabwe into Africa’s top tobacco producer.

But farmers there say the company’s contract model has left them drowning in debt.

Our investigation w/ @NewsHawksLive…
John Ruvanga jumped at the chance to become a contract farmer for #ChinaTobacco’s Zimbabwe subsidiary, Tian Ze.

But he struggled to pay for the expensive products he had to buy from Tian Ze’s suppliers in $. In a few years, he had lost everything. 2/
Much of what is left of farmers’ income is sapped by a currency system run by Zimbabwe’s central bank.

By converting their $ earnings into local currencies at overvalued rates, the bank holds on to badly needed foreign currency. MPs say the system is illegal. 3/
Read 4 tweets
8 Sep
The Kremlin is designating more and more top Russian journalists — including those in the OCCRP network — as "foreign agents," a label that can poison relationships with sources and advertisers.

Here’s how this weapon against #pressfreedom works👇…
Any outlet or journalist in Russia that receives money from abroad, even from a friend, can be designated as a “foreign agent.”

Even being reimbursed for expenses on a foreign press tour can serve as a pretext for a designation. 2/
Outlets and journalists designated as foreign agents must mark all their publications, even in their tweets, with this 24-word declaration. 3/
Read 5 tweets
3 Sep
NEW: Messages obtained by police show how aides to Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont tried to avoid angering Moscow by advising him to avoid sensitive human rights issues, including the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 1/5…
Western experts and officials have accused Russia of meddling in Catalonia as part of a broader strategy to fuel discontent in the EU. Russian disinformation and contacts with separatists were especially apparent in the run-up to the region’s 2017 independence referendum. 2/5
The newly revealed text messages show that the Catalan separatists continued seeking Russian support well into 2020, tailoring a communications strategy that would avoid mention of the Belarusian opposition, Navalny, and Edward Snowden. 3/5
Read 5 tweets
30 Aug
NEW: Brazilian authorities have opened multiple investigations into subsidiaries of Canadian asset management giant Brookfield, including probes into alleged environmental damage, OCCRP and @TheInterceptBr found. 1/4…
@TheInterceptBr Brookfield has expanded rapidly into Brazil, but with some controversy. To complete its megaprojects, its Brazilian subsidiaries have dammed rivers, with one investigation examining the firm’s alleged role in flooding in the eastern city of Raul Soares. 2/4
@TheInterceptBr Some who have spoken out about the firm in Brazil say they have faced threats. Danilo Novaes says he’s feared for his life since he demanded Brookfield do more to help people whose livelihoods had been harmed by the Barra do Braúna hydroelectric plant. 3/4
Read 4 tweets
26 Aug
The rainforest of NW Colombia is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. It’s also a hub of illegal gold mining.

OCCRP, @cuestion_p, @LigaNoSilencio & @MiamiHerald investigated a group that left scars on the landscape that will last millennia. 1/…
@cuestion_p @LigaNoSilencio @MiamiHerald Colombian prosecutors allege the group, which diverted a river and poisoned it with mercury, included two U.S. citizens.

Reporters found them living large thousands of kilometers away, in the wealthy suburbs of Miami. 2/
@cuestion_p @LigaNoSilencio @MiamiHerald Five people have been convicted of environmental crimes related to the illegal mining organization.

Others, including the Americans, have not. Colombian district prosecutors say the investigation is still open. 3/
Read 4 tweets

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