24 Jul 2010

Multinational fined for illegal toxic waste export

2:04 pm on 24 July 2010

A Dutch court has fined multinational commodities trader Trafigura one million euros for illegally exporting toxic waste to Ivory Coast.

The chemicals ended up being dumped in the open air. Thousands of residents of Abidjan complained of illnesses and the government of Ivory Coast said 16 people died.

The judge said during the ruling that Trafigura Beheer BV broke European regulations on the export of waste to the Third World and harming the environment. It was also convicted for concealing the harmful nature of the waste.

The company had chartered the ship Probo Koala, which wanted to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of chemical slops in Amsterdam in July 2006. The ship decided against disposing the cargo in Amsterdam after being told it would have to pay the clean-up costs.

About a month later, the material was dumped in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan after Trafigura hired a local company to dispose of the waste.

The court has convicted the ship's captain, and a Trafigura employee.

The Dutch judge said on Friday the waste was harmful, caustic and could hurt the skin, though a British judge said last September there was no evidence the waste had caused anything more than "flu-like symptoms".

Company agreed other settlements

Trafigura, one of the world's biggest oil and metals traders with 2009 sales of $US47 billion, said it would study the ruling and may file an appeal.

The company agreed in 2007 to pay a $US198 million settlement to the Ivory Coast government which exempted it from legal proceedings in the West African country, but denied responsibility for the dumping or any wrongdoing.

The company also reached a pre-trial settlement in September with a British law firm which represented 31,000 residents of Ivory Coast.