Toxic waste at the Ivory Coast: Dutch commodity trader pays to avoid prosecution

Toxic waste at the Ivory Coast: Dutch commodity trader pays to avoid prosecution

The commodity trader Trafigura has agreed with Dutch Public Prosecutor to avoid a criminal trial over concealing the hazardous nature of waste and illegally exporting and dumping it at the Ivory Coast in 2006. The incident was said to have caused the illness of 31.000 Ivorians (DutchNews.nl report).

The charges against the company, its President-Director and an employee were dropped in exchange for €300,000 (as compensation for the earnings from the illegal export), €67,000 and €25,000 respectively.

This is the last item in a long chain of settlements: In 2007, Trafigura agreed to pay €152m to the Ivory Coast government, settling a disagreement over the cleaning-up. In 2009, in response to a civil lawsuit brought in London, Trafigura agreed to pay €33m in damages to the Ivorian citizens. An Amsterdam court had furthermore fined Trafigura €1m for the illegal export and concealment.

In explaining yesterday’s decision to settle, the prosecutor is hinting at the time that this case did consume and would continue to consume. Trafigura is emphasizing that it has not accepted any conviction, nor made any admission of liability or guilt as part of the settlement.

This settlement, as well as the preceding ones, are proof of a certain obscurity surrounding corporate managers’ duty of care in the context of global business. While rejecting any notion of liability, Trafigura’s managing board states to be reviewing the way in which it conducts business in each community and to have introduced already “a robust process of continuous review and improvement”.