Trafigura guilty of illegally exporting toxic waste

The Akouedo dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where toxic waste was dumped in March 2006 by the Probo Koala
The Akouedo dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where toxic waste was dumped in March 2006 by the Probo Koala

Netherlands – A Dutch court has found multinational Trafigura guilty of illegally exporting toxic waste from Amsterdam and concealing the nature of the cargo.

The oil trader Trafigura has been fined €1m (£840,000) for illegally exporting tonnes of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast in west Africa. It is the first time the London-based firm has been convicted of criminal charges over the environmental scandal, in which some 30,000 Africans were made ill when the toxic waste was spread on dumps around Abidjan, in Ivory Coast.

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

Trafigura initially tried to clean up low-grade oil by tipping caustic soda into the hold of the Probo Koala. The company tried to unload the waste in Amsterdam for treatment, declaring it as “harmless slops”.

When the treatment company came back with a higher price for cleaning the waste, the cargo was shipped to Africa where it ended up in Abidjan to be handled at a much lower rate.

Presiding Judge Frans Bauduin said: “Trafigura – which by that time knew of the exact composition [of the waste] – should never have agreed to its processing at such a price.”

Trafigura has become notorious for threatening reporters who delve into its conduct. It has been paying for the services of lobbyists Bell Pottinger and libel lawyers Carter-Ruck. Last year, it was forced to back down when it tried to enforce a so-called super-injunction against the Guardian, illegally gagging it from reporting proceedings in parliament.

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Author: Dr Suusi Watson

Editor of the Bastard

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