MAC: Mines and Communities

Trafigura found guilty in toxic waste dumping tragedy

Published by MAC on 2010-08-02
Source: Guardian, Amnesty International (2010-07-23)

The dumping of deadly toxic wastes on Ivory Coast, in 2006, has finally led to a million euro fine being imposed by a Duthc court on the culprit company, Trafigura.

Trafigura is second only to Glencore as an international resources commodities trader - a substantial part of which is in minerals.

Oxford University is being asked to reconsider a gift from Trafigura founder, Graham Sharp.

Meanwhile  the Dutch Public Prosecutor has called the fine "too low" and hinted that fraud charges may now be brought against the trader.

ESPAÑOL

Trafigura found guilty in toxic waste dumping tragedy

Over 100,000 people sought medical attention and there were 15 reported deaths

Amnesty International

23 July 2010

Amnesty International today welcomed the guilty verdict by a Dutch court against the multinational company, Trafigura, for delivering hazardous waste to Amsterdam while concealing the true nature of the waste, and for exporting the waste to Cote D'Ivoire.

Today's verdict is the first time the company has been held criminally accountable for its involvement in exporting the hazardous waste to Cote d'Ivoire.

"This judgement appears damning given Trafigura's previous denials of any wrongdoing. The waste, which was ultimately dumped in Cote d'Ivoire, had a huge impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people," said Benedetta Lacey, a special advisor at Amnesty International who has visited Côte d'Ivoire and met victims of the dumping.

"While the ruling is a significant step forward, this is not the end of the story for those affected. There are unanswered questions about the impact that the waste may have had on people's health, and the areas where the waste was dumped are yet to be fully decontaminated."

The verdict also appears to raise serious questions about the failures of the Dutch authorities, who could have prevented the tragedy by stopping the waste from leaving Dutch borders. These questions have not been resolved. Amnesty International is assessing the full text of the final verdict.

In July 2006, Trafigura off-loaded waste from a ship in Amsterdam for disposal, but for cost reasons reloaded and transported the waste to Cote d'Ivoire.

The waste was then dumped in August 2006 in various locations around the city of Abidjan. Following the dumping, more than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems and there were 15 reported deaths.

The Dutch prosecution focussed on events in the Netherlands. It does not appear to consider the impact of the dumping in Cote D'Ivoire, reflecting the challenges of prosecuting companies for actions that cross borders.

"There is an urgent need for the international community to learn the lessons from this incident. States must do more to ensure that multinationals respect human rights both at home and abroad." said Benedetta Lacey.
Read More

Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste compensation deal open to abuse (News, 15 February 2010)
Toxic waste victims desperate for justice (News, 3 February 2010)
Côte d'Ivoire: Travesty of justice for toxic waste victims (News, 22 January 2010)
Côte d'Ivoire must stop attempt to defraud toxic waste dump victims (News, 18 December 2009)
Cote d'Ivoire: Open letter to the Ivorian Minister of Justice (18 December 2009)
Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump victims reflect on "small victory" (News, 10 November 2009)


Trafigura fined €1m for exporting toxic waste to Africa

Dutch court convicts oil trader of illegally exporting waste to Ivory Coast and concealing its hazardous nature in Amsterdam

Rob Evans

Guardian

23 July 2010

The controversial oil trader Trafigura was today fined €1m (£840,000) for illegally exporting tonnes of hazardous waste to west Africa.

A court in the Netherlands also ruled that the London-based firm had concealed the dangerous nature of the waste when it was initially unloaded from a ship in Amsterdam.

It is the first time that Trafigura has been convicted of criminal charges over the environmental scandal in which 30,000 Africans were made ill when the toxic waste was dumped in Ivory Coast.

The fine was half the amount requested by Dutch prosecutors.

The Amsterdam district court judge, Frans Bauduin, also convicted a Trafigura employee for his role in the 2006 scandal, and the Ukranian captain of the ship that carried the waste.

Bauduin said Trafigura was fined because it had done what European regulations on toxic waste aimed to prevent, "namely the export of waste to the third world and harming the environment".

The seven-week trial centred on Trafigura's initial attempt to get rid of the waste cheaply in the Netherlands. The Dutch prosecutor, Look Bougert, told the court that Trafigura had put "self-interest above people's health and the environment".

He said Trafigura had wrongly described the waste as routine slops from ordinary tank-cleaning. Residents complained about the foul smell, and the company hired to dispose of the waste wanted more money for the job.

Trafigura then pumped hundreds of tonnes of the toxic waste back on to its tanker and left the Netherlands. The tanker, Probo Koala, was sent to the Ivory Coast port city of Abidjan, where the cost of getting rid of the waste was much lower.

Instead of disposing of the waste properly, Trafigura "dumped it over the fence" in Abidjan, Bougert said. "Cheap, but with consequences," he added.

Amid an international furore, Trafigura was last year forced to pay compensation to thousands of Africans who needed medical treatment. The civil legal action had been brought by the London lawyers Leigh Day.

Trafigura said it would study today's ruling and consider an appeal. "While Trafigura is pleased to have been acquitted of the charge of forgery, it is disappointed by the judge's ruling on the other two, which it believes to be incorrect," it said.

"Concerning the delivery of dangerous goods, it is important that the court has noted that there was limited risk to human health from these slops, and indeed no damage occurred in Amsterdam," it added. Trafigura has insisted the waste could not have caused serious illness.

The court convicted a Trafigura employee, Naeem Ahmed, for leading the effort to dump the waste "while its dangerous nature was concealed". Ahmed was fined €25,000 and given a six-month suspended sentence, meaning he will not serve prison time unless he commits another crime within two years.

"Trafigura continues to maintain that Naeem did nothing wrong and will provide him and his legal team with whatever legal assistance they may require," the company said.

The Ukrainian captain of the Probo Koala, Sergiy Chertov, was sentenced to a five-month suspended prison term for the same offence and forgery, for concealing the nature of the waste in a written declaration.

Last year Trafigura was forced to withdraw in the face of a row when it attempted to enforce a super-injunction against the Guardian, gagging it from reporting proceedings in parliament.


Trafigura founder Graham Sharp's £3m gift to Oxford university causes anger

Donation linked to scandal-hit oil trading company should be rejected, say Oxford students and teaching staff.

Jamie Doward and Tom Rowley

The Observer

25 July 2010

Students and academics at Oxford are angry that their university has accepted more than £3m from a foundation established by a founder of the controversial oil trading company Trafigura.

Graham Sharp was one of the three co-founders of the company, which on Friday was fined £840,000 by a court in the Netherlands for illegally exporting tonnes of toxic waste to west Africa.

Sharp, who graduated from St John's College, Oxford, in 1983, with a first-class honours degree in engineering, economics and management, retired from Trafigura's operational business in 2007. He went on to found the Helsington Foundation, a Liechtenstein-based trust that has given £3.25m to fund a new summer school at the University of Oxford that will aim to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

On Friday, Trafigura was convicted of criminal charges over a 2006 environmental scandal, in which 30,000 people were made ill when the Probo Koala, a ship leased by Trafigura, dumped waste in Ivory Coast.

Yesterday, students and staff at Oxford urged the university to reconsider accepting the donation. Peter Oppenheimer, emeritus professor of economics at Christ Church, said the university had a history of being "naive" when it came to accepting donations. "Oxford's central fundraising effort has long been an undirected mess - they will happily take money from anywhere," he said.

Sharp has been a generous benefactor to his alma mater, having previously bestowed a fellowship courtesy of the Trafigura Foundation, the company's charitable arm. When news of the Helsington donation was announced last year, Ewan McKendrick, pro-vice chancellor for education at the University of Oxford said: "I'm delighted that we are able to offer more students the chance to attend a summer school at the university."

Sharp said he hoped the gift would encourage more people to aspire to a university education. But students expressed disquiet that much of Sharp's fortune was derived from Trafigura.

Adam Bouyamourn, a second-year politics, philosophy and economics student at Worcester College, said: "Surely it is socially, if not globally, irresponsible to provide this tacit endorsement of Trafigura's business practices?"

Lewis Goodall, a third-year history and politics student at St John's College, said: "The university has shown itself to be absolutely unthinking with regards to who it takes its money from."

Last year, in an out-of-court settlement, Trafigura paid £32m compensation to thousands of Africans who required medical treatment as a result of slops dumped from the Probo Koala. In an earlier settlement, Trafigura also agreed to pay £100m to help clean up the waste - without admitting liability.

Eliance Kouassi, president of the victims' group in Ivory Coast, said of Friday's ruling: "Finally Trafigura has been called out in a court of law."

The prosecution alleged Trafigura, which is considering an appeal, had put "self-interest above people's health and the environment".

Sharp wrote to the New York Times in 2006, saying: "The vessel slops we discharged... were not capable of causing the harm that happened there."

A spokeswoman for the university said: "The Helsington Foundation is entirely independent of the company with which Mr Sharp worked."


Dutch Prosecution Appeals Trafigura Ruling, Says $1.3 Million Fine Too Low

By Jeroen Molenaar

Bloomberg

7 August 2010

The Dutch public prosecutor's service appealed a ruling by an Amsterdam district court against Trafigura Beheer BV for shipping harmful waste to Ivory Coast, saying the fine of 1 million euros ($1.3 million) was too low.

The prosecution can also prove that the closely held commodities trader committed fraud, Esther Schreur, spokeswoman for the Dutch National Fraud Prosecutor said, confirming an earlier report by the newspaper De Volkskrant.

"We vigorously deny all charges," including fraud, said Margaret van Kempen, an outside spokeswoman for Trafigura. Trafigura has also appealed the ruling, she said. Ron van Leeuwen, spokesman for the Amsterdam Appeals Court, said he couldn't yet confirm or deny the appeals.

Waste from a ship hired by Trafigura four years ago was given to a local company, Compagnie Tommy, and was dumped near Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan. Residents claimed the pollution caused deaths and widespread illness.

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