Trafigura reaches out-of-court settlement over export of toxic wasteDecember 2012
Oil trader Trafigura is to pay fines totalling €1.3m ($1.7m, £1.0m) in the Netherlands in an out-of-court settlement concerning the illegal export of toxic waste to the Ivory Coast in 2006, and for concealing its hazardous nature.
The agreement, reached last month, ends all legal action over a €1m fine handed down by the Dutch courts in 2010 for the export offence.
However, civil society groups have criticised the deal as “derisory” for a company that turned a profit of more than $1bn (£627m, €780m) in the year to December 2011.
The waste was the bi-product of ‘caustic washing’ low-grade oil on the vessel Probo Koala, which Trafigura chartered to perform the process in international waters.
The company had discounted disposing of the waste at a centre in the Netherlands on cost grounds and, instead, exported it to the Ivory Coast. The Ivorian government said that 16 people died and hundreds more were taken ill after the waste was dumped in open sites around Abidjan, the country’s primary city.
Trafigura denies responsibility for the dumping or any wrongdoing and appealed against the original fine in 2010. Dutch prosecutors also appealed on the grounds that it should have been higher. The fine was upheld by another court in 2011.
As part of the settlement, both those appeals were withdrawn, which means the original fine stands. However, the company must also pay compensation of €300,000, the amount it earned from having the waste dumped.
Also included in the settlement is a €67,000 fine against Trafigura chairman Claude Dauphin for his executive role in the transaction. Dauphin’s subsequent appeal, and that of Dutch prosecutors, have been dropped, with the fine to be paid by the company.
Greenpeace Africa said the settlement shows that company executives can evade legal responsibility and slammed the “derisory” fine for Dauphin.
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