Oil trading group Trafigura has been fined €1m by judges in Amsterdam for exporting toxic waste to Ivory Coast in the ship Probo Koala in summer 2006.
The court ruled Trafigura broke the law by taking the waste to the west African country and by concealing the true nature of the waste when the ship docked in Amsterdam in July four years ago.
The ship was carrying chemical slops left over following the processing of nafta – an oil product.
Trafigura had attempted to get round international treaties by exporting waste to the Third World, the judges said.
A Trafigura employee and the Ukranian captain of the Probo Koala were sentenced to suspended jail sentences for their role in the scandal. Trafigura was cleared of forgery charges.
‘This is a clear signal to other companies that illegally exporting waste to Africa will not go unpunished,’ said Marietta Harjono, a spokeswoman for environmental lobby group Greenpeace.
Amsterdam waste processor APS, which was initially commissioned to clean up the slops but pumped them back in to the ship after a dispute over the price, was found guilty of breaking environmental rules.
But judges said workers believed city council officials had given permission and should therefore not be prosecuted.
And Amsterdam city council officials could not be prosecuted because they have indemnity, the court said.
Thousands of people are said to have become ill when local waste company Tommy dumped the sludge around the port city of Abdijan. Trafigura denies the waste caused health problems.
In September 2009, Trafigura agreed to pay a maximum €33m in damages to 31,000 people from Ivory Coast who claim they were made ill by toxic waste from the Probo Koala.
The Ivory Coast claimants’ London-based lawyers agreed to the out-of-court settlement, saying Trafigura could not be held legally responsible for the health problems.
In 2007, Trafigura agreed to pay €152m to the Ivory Coast government to settle its claim and pay for the clean-up but denying liability.
The company said on Friday afternoon it is to appeal against the Amsterdam conviction.
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