Dutch court seeks two million euros over I.Coast toxic waste

21st June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dutch prosecutors called Monday for a Swiss-based company whose chartered ship left Amsterdam and dumped allegedly deadly waste in the Ivory Coast in 2006 to be fined two million euros.

Multinational Trafigura, waste treatment company Amsterdam Port Services (APS) and the Ukrainian captain of the Probo Koala are on trial in Amsterdam for allegedly breaking environment and waste export laws in Dutch territory.

Seventeen people allegedly died after caustic soda and petroleum residues on board the Probo Koala were shipped away from the Port of Amsterdam and redirected to Abidjan, where they were dumped on city 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 multinational bears "the final responsibility for everything that happened aboard the Probo Koala," said prosecutor Renske Mackor, calling for the two-million euro fine.

Trafigura "placed its own commercial interests above those of the health and environment, here in the Netherlands as well as in the Ivory Coast," Mackor said.

She called for a year's prison for the Trafigura employee who coordinated the ship's stopover in Amsterdam, Naeem Ahmed, and four months' jail for the ship's captain, Sergiy Chertov.

The prosecutor also sought six months' jail time, with three suspended, for APS's former managing director Evert Uittenbosch, as well as fines of 250,000 euros and 150,000 euros for APS and Amsterdam city council respectively.

The company, which denies any link between the waste and casualties, reached an out-of-court damages settlement with the Ivory Coast government in February 2007 for 100 billion CFA francs (152 million euros, 225 million dollars).

The deal exempted it from legal proceedings in that country.

A court case in Britain was dropped after a 33-million-euro settlement for 31,000 plaintiffs was reached in September last year on the basis of an independent experts' report that found no link between the waste and 17 deaths and thousands of poisoning cases claimed by the Ivory Coast.

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

The trial is expected to conclude on July 2 with a verdict to be announced on July 23.

© 2010 AFP

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