Dutch court fines firm after I.Coast waste dump

July 23, 2010 12:00 am

, AMSTERDAM, Jul 23 – A Dutch court on Friday slapped a one-million-euro (1.3-million-dollar) fine on a Swiss-based company whose chartered ship dumped waste alleged by Ivory Coast to have killed 17 people.

"The court sentences Trafigura to a fine of one million euros," presiding judge Frans Bauduin said in the Amsterdam district court, finding the company guilty of breaking European waste export laws.

It was also found guilty of concealing what the charge sheet referred to as the "harmful nature" of the waste on board the Probo Koala ship that arrived at the port of Amsterdam in July 2006, but was redirected to the Ivory Coast.

The court sentenced the captain of the Probo Koala ship, 46-year-old Sergiy Chertov, to a five-year suspended jail term, and fined 43-year-old Trafigura employee Naeem Ahmed, who coordinated the operation in the port of Amsterdam, 25,000 euros.

The court found it had no jurisdiction to consider the charges against the city of Amsterdam, who administered the port, and imposed no sentence on waste treatment company Amsterdam Port Services (APS) or its former managing director Evert Uittenbosch, 60.

"This is the beginning of justice," Greenpeace spokeswoman Marietta Harjono said outside the court.

"The next logical step is that Trafigura gets sued for the dumping in Ivory Coast."

The Amsterdam trial had related only to violations of European laws.

On July 2, 2006, caustic soda and petroleum residues on board the Probo Koala were prevented from being offloaded for treatment in the port of Amsterdam and redirected to Abidjan, where they were dumped on Ivorian city\’s waste tips.

The waste, slops from the cleaning of fuel transportation tanks, was pumped back into the Probo Koala after APS demanded a higher price for treatment as it was more toxic than previously thought.

Trafigura declined to pay the increased price.

The company, which denies any link between the waste and casualties and has an independent experts\’ report backing its stance, reached out of court settlements for 33 million euros (42 million dollars) and 152 million euros in Britain and Ivory Coast that exempted it from legal proceedings.

But a United Nations report published last September found "strong" evidence blaming the waste for at least 15 deaths and several hospitalisations.

Ivory Coast claims the dumping caused 17 deaths and thousands of cases of poisoning.



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