Dutch court fines Trafigura over Ivory Coast waste

AMSTERDAM, (Reuters) – A Dutch court fined  commodities trader Trafigura 1 million euros ($1.3 million) yesterday for illegally exporting toxic waste to Ivory Coast which  ended up being dumped in the open air.

The judge said during the ruling, the first ever to convict  Trafigura Beheer BV over the toxic waste handling, the company  was fined because it 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.

Trafigura, one of the world’s biggest oil and metals traders  with 2009 sales of $47 billion, said in a statement it would  study the ruling, and it may file an appeal. The court also  convicted a Trafigura employee and a ship’s captain.

“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.

Trafigura, which has made settlements to prevent or end  court proceedings in Ivory Coast and Britain, 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.

Thousands of residents of the city  complained of illnesses.

The government of Ivory Coast said 16 people died.

The Dutch judge said yesterday 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”.

Trafigura agreed in 2007 to pay a $198 million settlement to  the Ivory Coast government which exempted it from legal  proceedings in the West African country, but it 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.

The court also sentenced Trafigura trader Naeem Ahmed to a  suspended 6 months’ jail sentence and a 25,000 euro fine for  concealing the harmful nature of the waste, and the Probo  Koala’s captain Sergiy Chertov to a suspended 5 month jail  sentence for the same charge and forgery when reporting the  waste to Dutch authorities.

The court acquitted the city of Amsterdam for its role in  handling the waste transport in the city’s port because it was  acting as a public body, giving it immunity, the judge said.

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that a lower  Dutch court should re-examine a case against Claude Dauphin, in  2006 chief executive of Trafigura Beheer BV, who Dutch  prosecutors suspect of having lead the toxic waste export.

Dauphin has objected to the charge, saying he only knew in  mid-Aug. 2006 that Probo Koala transported toxic waste, when the  export to Ivory Coast had already taken place.

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