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Côte d'Ivoire

Swiss firm fined a million in Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste case

Trafigura lawyers in court, 1 June 2010
Trafigura lawyers in court, 1 June 2010 AFP

A Dutch court today issued a one-million-euro fine to Trafigura - a Swiss-based multinational  whose chartered ship allegedly dumped toxic waste in Côte d'Ivoire in 2006, killing 17 people.

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Presiding Judge Frans Bauduin said the company was guilty of breaking European waste laws - despite its 'not guilty' plea.

Sergiy Chertov, the ship's captain, earned a five-year suspended jail term, while Trafigura employee Naeem Ahmed was fined 25,000 euros.

Chris Thompson, a freelance journalist in London who has written extensively on the Trafigura case, told RFI that the ruling - but not necessarily the fine - sets an important precedent.

"One million for a company whose turnover is several tens of billions annually is not going to make much of a dent in the accounts department," says Thompson.

"What is significant is that this is the first court ruling that I know of where a judge has actually said that the waste that Trafigura tried to offload in Amsterdam and the waste it shipped to the Ivory Coast [Côte d'Ivoire] was indeed toxic, and had grave consequences for human health."

Trafigura still maintains not only that it was not responsible for the dumping, but that the waste was not toxic to humans.

Thompson believes that, if nothing else, the ruling will "certainly make companies who are looking to dump cheaply in Africa think twice".

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