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.