Ivory Coast gets £100m from UK firm over dumping of toxic waste

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The Independent Online

A London-based multinational commodities firm has agreed to pay £100m over claims that it arranged to dump 400 tonnes of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, which led to the deaths of 10 people and poisoned 100,000.

After the settlement, one of the largest for environmental damage in Africa, the Ivory Coast authorities released three jailed executives of the commodity trading group Trafigura.

The director of Trafigura, Claude Dauphin, had been in prison in Abidjan since September, along with Jean-Pierre Valentini and Nzi Kablan. Trafigura denies any connection between their release and the payment, part of which is to be used for a hospital and a new waste-disposal plant, as well as compensation.

The group has been accused of dumping poisonous black sludge in rubbish tips, drains, abattoirs and lagoonsin Abidjan last August. The waste came from a Trafigura-chartered tanker, the Probo Koala. Thousands of people suffered vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties after exposure to fumes from the waste.

The ship arrived from Europe amid a disagreement over the cost of the waste disposal in the Netherlands, and an Ivory Coast firm, Tommy, was awarded the contract.

Trafigura said that "[it] and the government of Ivory Coast dismiss any responsibility for the happenings in August emphatically".

However Martyn Day, a senior partner with the UK law firm Leigh Day and Co, said the settlement would not deter a class action suit against Trafigura on behalf of more than 4,000 victims. "If some people on our lists are paid off, they would have to offset any later compensation," he said.

Mr Dauphin and Trafigura's west Africa regional director, Mr Valentini, flew to Abidjan to investigate the pollution, and were arrested by Ivory Coast authorities under poisoning and toxic waste laws. Mr Kablan, from a subsidiary called Puma Energy, was detained at the same time.