Trafigura pursuit over toxic waste
Swiss-based multinational company Trafigura reaches an out of court settlement with 31,000 people affected by its 2006 dumping of toxic chemicals in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
One Ivorian group representing victims criticised the deal and accused the company of exploiting Africa’s poverty.
Greenpeace wants Trafigura prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, citing documents it says demonstrate the waste’s high toxicity. Trafigura also faces a Dutch prosecution for allegedly lying about the true nature of its waste.
The health crisis start in Côte d’Ivoire when a ship registered in Panama, the Probo Koala, chartered by Trafigura Beheer BV, disposed of toxic chemicals in the Ivorian port of Abidjan.
The substance was then dumped by a local contractor in up to 12 sites around the country’s largest city, Abidjan, in August 2006. The gas caused the deaths of 17 and the injury of over 30,000 Ivorians with injuries that ranged from mild headaches to severe burns of skin and lungs.
The leader of the Conservative party in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, is to sever his links with the controversial oil traders Trafigura, that’s carried out a huge cover-up of its role in an African waste-dumping scandal.
Trafigura has denied any waste was transported from Holland, saying that the substances contained only tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide, and that the company did not know the substance was to be disposed of improperly. In early 2007, the company paid US$198 million for cleanup to the Ivorian government without admitting wrongdoing, and the Ivorian government has pledged not to prosecute the company.
A series of protests and resignations of Ivorian government officials followed this deal. A city of Amsterdam inquiry in late 2006 found that the Probo Koala had been turned away from offloading toxic waste prior to departing from the port of Amsterdam and heading to West Africa. A civil lawsuit in London was launched in 2008 by almost 30,000 Ivorians against Trafigura.
In May 2009, Trafigura announced it would also sue the British Broadcasting Company for libel after its Newsnight program alleged the company had knowingly sought to cover up its role in the 2006 Côte d’Ivoire toxic waste dump. In September 2009 The Guardian obtained and published internal Trafigura emails showing that the traders responsible knew how dangerous the proposed processes were. Shortly after Trafigura offered an unnamed settlement figure to the class action suit against them.