€1m fine for waste dump that may have killed 17

A DUTCH court yesterday slapped a €1 million fine on a Swiss-based company whose chartered ship dumped hazardous waste, which the Ivory Coast says killed 17 people.

“The court sentences Trafigura to a fine of €1m,” presiding judge Frans Bauduin said as he found the company guilty of breaking European waste export laws on Dutch territory.

Trafigura said it was disappointed by the ruling in the Amsterdam district court and would consider an appeal.

It was also found guilty of concealing what the charge sheet referred to as the “harmful nature” of the waste on board the Probo Koala ship that arrived at the port of Amsterdam in July 2006 but was redirected to the Ivory Coast.

Trafigura “exported the waste ... to the state (Ivory Coast) without having done a thorough analysis of the port city of Abidjan’s capacity to process the waste ... in a responsible way,” said the judge.

The captain of the Probo Koala, 46-year-old Sergiy Chertov, was handed a five-month suspended jail term, while Trafigura employee Naeem Ahmed, who co-ordinated the operation in the port of Amsterdam, was fined €25,000.

On July 2, 2006, caustic soda and petroleum residues on board the Probo Koala were prevented from being off-loaded for treatment in the port of Amsterdam and redirected to Abidjan, where they were dumped on city waste tips.

The waste, slops from the cleaning of fuel transportation tanks, was pumped back into the Probo Koala after it was found to be more dangerous than previously thought and waste treatment firm Amsterdam Port Services (APS) demanded a higher price, which Trafigura declined to pay.

The company, which denies any link between the waste and casualties, reached out of court settlements for €33m and €152m in Britain and Ivory Coast that exempted it from legal proceedings.

But a United Nations report published last September found “strong” evidence blaming the waste for at least 15 deaths and several hospitalisations.


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