Trafigura found guilty of toxic waste offence

The oil trading company Trafigura was fined more than £800,000 after being found guilty of concealing the dangerous nature of toxic waste which was then illegally exported from Amsterdam and dumped in Africa.

The Swiss-based commodities giant, whose £651m profits last year mean that the punishment imposed by a Dutch court represents 0.12 per cent of its annual earnings, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the incident four years ago, which led to tonnes of the foul-smelling sludge being dumped in the Ivory Coast by a sub-contractor.

But the company was convicted yesterday after facing criminal charges relating to the environmental scandal for the first time. A judge in Amsterdam imposed the €1m fine after finding that Trafigura had done what European regulations on hazardous waste were designed to prevent – "namely the export of waste to the third world and harming the environment".

A chartered tanker, the Probo Koala, was used by Trafigura to carry hundreds of tonnes of waste – claimed to be low-level "tank washings" – from an oil purification process to Amsterdam in July 2006. When the company was told the waste would cost substantially more to treat than estimated, the ship left the Netherlands and about a month later the slops were illegally dumped in the Ivorian port of Abidjan.

During a seven-week trial, prosecutors claimed that Trafigura had put "self-interest above people's health and environment" when it rejected the revised fee of €750 (£626) per tonne demanded by Amsterdam Port Services (APS) to treat the waste and subsequently paid €27 per tonne for disposal to Compagnie Tommy, an Ivorian operator which used a fleet of trucks to dump the slops under cover of darkness in the open air at sites around Abidjan. The Dutch court found that the slops contained mercaptans, a sulphur-based chemical with a noxious smell.

Trafigura has always maintained that Compagnie Tommy acted without its knowledge or approval, describing its actions as "reprehensible". Judge Frans Bauduin, sitting at Amsterdam District Court, said Trafigura had chosen to dispose of the waste in Ivory Coast "for commercial reasons". Noting the disparity between the disposal rates quoted by contractors in Europe and Africa, the judge said: "Under those circumstances Trafigura – which by that time knew of the exact composition [of the waste] – should never have agreed to its processing at such a price."

The €1m fine was half the amount requested by Dutch prosecutors, whose case related to Trafigura's actions in the Netherlands and not in the Ivory Coast.

The Amsterdam court also found a Trafigura employee, Naeem Ahmed, 43, a chemist at the company's London office who co-ordinated negotiations to process the waste in Amsterdam, was guilty of attempting to dispose of the slops in the Netherlands "while its dangerous nature was concealed".

Ahmed, who along with his employer was acquitted of forgery, was fined €25,000 and given a six-month suspended prison sentence. The Ukrainian captain of the Probo Koala, Sergiy Chertov, was sentenced to a five-month suspended jail term for the same offence and forgery by submitting a false declaration about the nature of the waste.

Trafigura said it was considering an appeal against its convictions. In a statement, it said: "While Trafigura is pleased to have been acquitted of the charge of forgery it is disappointed by the judges' ruling on the other two [charges] which it believes to be incorrect. Concerning the delivery of dangerous goods, it is important the court noted there was limited risk to human health... and indeed no damage occurred in Amsterdam."

Last year the company agreed in London's High Court to pay £30m in compensation to 31,000 Ivorians who claimed to have fallen ill after the slops were dumped. Both parties accepted that the waste, at worst, caused flu-like symptoms and could not have caused more serious injuries or deaths.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain