A Dutch court has found the multinational oil firm Trafigura guilty of exporting toxic waste from Amsterdam to Ivory Coast and concealing the nature of the cargo.
In 2006 Trafigura initially tried to clean up low-grade oil, and unloaded it in Amsterdam for treatment. When the firm determined the price of cleaning the waste was too high, it decided to dispose of the waste in Ivory Coast.
The firm faces a fine of 1 million euros, or approximately $1.29 million USD. An employee involved in the operation was fined 250,000 euros, and the captain of the ship received a five year suspended jail term.
According to Amnesty International, over 100,000 people in Ivory Coast sought medical attention, and 15 people died as a result of the waste. Special Advisor Benedetta Lacey of Amnesty bring up a salient point. “While the ruling is a significant step forward, this is not the end of the story for those affected. There are unanswered questions about the impact that the waste may have had on people’s health, and the areas where the waste was dumped are yet to be fully decontaminated.”
This is the first time Trafigura has faced criminal charges, but in 2007 the firm paid $160 million USD to the government of Ivory Coast without admitting liability. It additionally paid $50 million USD to citizens who claimed the toxic waste harmed them in an out-of-court settlement.
While Trafigura has been found guilty of forgery for concealing the cargo, Greenpeace toxics campaigner Marietta Harjono points out that “justice is not complete yet, because this is only the beginning, because Trafigura has not been brought to trial yet for the deliberate dumping of toxic waste in Africa.”
Meanwhile Trafigura claims no wrongdoing and is considering an appeal.