Friday, 23 December 2011

Trafigura: Still Guilty

 

I have emerged from my self-imposed hibernation but for a few minutes only.

The Dutch Appeal court found Trafigura guilty of the illegal export of waste to Abidjan and imposed a fine of 1 million euros: the same fine was imposed last year when Trafigura was found guilty of this offence.

Greenpeace has issued a press release which you can read in Dutch here but I append a better translation courtesy of Greenpeace Google Translate’s version in English. [Note: Post originally published with Google Translate version of press release]

Court confirms: Trafigura exported highly toxic waste
Amsterdam, 23 December 2011

The Appeal Court has found Trafigura's guilty of illegal export of waste from the Netherlands to Africa and for "concealing the harmful nature of the waste for life and health" when the company submitted it for processing in Amsterdam. It has fined Trafigura ? 1 million. Greenpeace is pleased that the international environmental crimes committed by Trafigura has been punished by the Dutch court. The decision of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal does justice to the international Basel Convention, that is intended to protect countries with weak environmental legislation against waste dumping.
The Basel Convention provides protection for people and the environment against the hazards of waste. "This decision is a warning to all companies that see Africa as a cheap dump for waste. The court confirmed that the Trafigura chemicals were harmful and highly toxic waste', according to Marietta Harjono, the toxics campaign leader for Greenpeace, which reported the environmental offence in 2006.


Trafigura, the world's second-largest oil trader, smelt a fat profit in 2006 when it bought very low quality coker naphtha with the aim of desulphurising it at sea in tankers like the Probo Koala using a controversial processing method. The waste disposal company APS was lined up to process the unusually odorous and toxic residue in Amsterdam, but Trafigura refused to pay the disposal costs and opted for export to Africa and spent months hawking it round different ports. The Dutch Forensic Institute analysed samples of the hazardous toxic cocktail of naphtha, sodium hydroxide, benzene, sulphide and mercaptide. For a knock-down price, this stinking mess was dumped in and around the densely-populated slums surrounding Ivory Coast's capital, Abidjan. More than a hundred thousand local residents reported health problems. The country's government reported 16 fatalities and paid damages to relatives in 2007.
Since the illegal dumping operation came out in August 2006, Trafigura has spared no expense or effort in squirming out of a conviction and blocking the search for the truth.


The Netherlands is a tax haven for companies like this with international operations, believes Greenpeace. It should stop rewarding perpetrators of environmental crimes like Trafigura with tax incentives to set up offices in the country. Greenpeace has worked for years on the establishment of the Basel Convention and, in 2006, it instigated proceedings against Trafigura, which has registered offices in the Netherlands, for the illegal export of the toxic waste from Amsterdam and the dumping of the waste in Africa. The environmental organisation stands up for the protection of people and the environment, for example by contributing to international treaties and regulations.

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