Trafigura Accused of Bribing Witnesses in Ivory Coast Toxic Waste Dump Case
Six-month-old Salam Oudrawogol of Abidjan,
covered with sores since he was exposed to toxic waste dump
«Trafigura asked them to say that the waste was not dangerous, that it had not had any impact on their lives. in Expatica»
«Reluctantly, Macfarlanes and Trafigura agreed to make a payment of 1.5 million FCFA (2,287 Euros) to each of the drivers, for allowing free and unrestricted use of their witness statements. in FOX Business»
Today, the French newspaper Le Monde reports that Trafigura have bribed nine of the truck drivers which transported the toxic waste on board the freighter Probo-Koala, chartered by Trafigura to dump the toxic waste in a landfill near Abidjan.
Greenpeace accuses the oil and metal trading company Trafigura of bribing witnesses and falsifying documents. The Swiss-based company was involved in the dumping of highly toxic waste in the Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan in 2006, which is said to have caused vomiting, choking and skin eruptions in some 100,000 people and killed at least 15 Ivorians.
The drivers claimed they did not know the waste was toxic and actually handled it themselves. They dumped it in a panic when they realised how hazardous it was and then went into hiding for fear of retribution by the local population.
Five months ago, the drivers sought contact with Greenpeace at a secret location in Africa and confessed their story. Greenpeace is well aware that these same drivers previously told lies in the very same case. But the organisation believes that the accusations are serious enough to warrant investigation. Marietta Harjono, Greenpeace spokeswoman said:
“There is a long-term pattern of influencing witnesses and influencing people in order to obtain false statements with the aim of using them in court. And that is against the law.”
Greenpeace gave the Dutch court a report containing the testimonies it had collected from the drivers.
“The statement from Greenpeace has arrived and we will study it”, said a spokeswoman for the Netherlands prosecution. Prosecution is possible since Trafigura is registered in the Netherlands.
The drivers who dumped the waste now say they were approached by Trafigura’s lawyers and asked to sign false statements. The drivers were told that the statements would be used in the London court case Trafigura was fighting against the Ivorian victims. They were persuaded to lie about the nature of the waste and to deny they had suffered any health problems.
“There are some sentences in the declaration that are not true, they are lies”, said one of the drivers who was approached by Trafigura.
The truck drivers who transported the toxic waste from the ship to the tips in Abidjan were “affected” and two have died, said Marietta Harjono.
“They have received 650 euros in February 11, 2009 and 2300 euros in April 13, 2010 and Trafigura has incited them to state «that the waste was not dangerous, and that it had no impact on their lives»”
Trafigura denies all the accusations
Claude Dauphin [L] and Eric de Turckheim co-founders of Trafigura
The company has issued a written response denying that it “never promised money to the drivers for their testimonies”.
However, Trafigura does concede that it has been in touch with the drivers and that they were paid a sum of 2,300 euros in April of this year. The company insists this amount was paid so that the drivers would reveal their identities, thereby safeguarding the company against possible threats of blackmail.
On February 13, 2007, Trafigura reached a settlement with the Ivorian government, which stopped any kind of legal prosecution to Trafigura in exchange of a payment of a lump sum of more than 100 billion CFA francs(152 million euros). The legal actions taken in the United Kingdom were also abandoned in September 2009 after Trafigura signed a settlement with the approximately 31,000 claimants on a compensation of 33 million euros.
Trafigura is said to have settled the cases to try to prevent the release of highly damaging documents that showed the direct involvement of top corporate executives in the decisions that led to the deadly dumping. Trafigura has always denied and continues to deny any liability for events that occurred in Ivory Coast.
Carter Ruck aggressive bullying legal tactics to attempt to hide Trafigura malfeasance and crimes
Watch here the BBC Newsnight documentary that was suppressed by Carter Ruck UK libel lawyers on behalf of Trafigura.
Carter Ruck used a 'super-injunction' to prevent the publication of a Trafigura report in the printed press [Guardian] and the BBC Newsnight reportage 'Dirty Tricks and Toxic Waste in the Ivory Coast' on the illegal toxic waste dumping by Probo-Koala. The libel law firm Carter Ruck used intimidation tactics to try to censor the UK Parliament, subsequently it was accused of infringing the Parliament supremacy and was reported to the UK Law society for investigation.
The Probo-Koala voyage and the Waste Dumping Deaths
Untroubled by the legal restrictions which had confined the Guardian to reporting at 8.31pm that it had been "prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found", internet users quickly reported that the gag related to a question by the Labour MP Paul Farrelly concerning the reporting of an incident in which toxic waste was dumped in the Ivory Coast.
Farrelly wanted to know which measures ministers had taken to protect whistle-blowers and press freedom following an injunction obtained by the oil company Trafigura and its firm of solicitors, Carter Ruck, against the publication of a report into the matter.
After several requests on Monday afternoon from the Guardian's lawyers asking Carter Ruck to alter the terms of the injunction and thereby allow publication of Farrelly's question, the gag remained in place.
But just 42 minutes after the Guardian story was published, the internet had revealed what the paper could not.
The ship that caused the trouble is a 17-year-old freighter with a Russian crew, registered in Panama and managed by a Greek shipping company, Prime Marine. It was chartered by Trafigura Beheer, a trading firm specialising in raw materials and registered for tax purposes in Amsterdam, with its headquarters in Lucerne, Switzerland, and its operational headquarters in London.
«The story began four years ago at an oil refinery in Mexico, owned by the state company Pemex, or PMI. Trafigura executives realised they could make a fortune by buying dirty Mexican oil - coker naphta for next to nothing.
The documents given to the Guardian by a whistle-blower show that the Trafigura scheme begins with e-mails to locate the needed chemicals and a junk tanker to process the coker naphta, a by-product with a high sulphur content.
The internal documents give the sordid details of how Trafigura schemed to profit by avoiding developed world regulations and dumping deadly toxic waste in Africa. The e-mails and memos begin in late 2005.
To sell it on at a profit, Trafigura first had to find a cheap way to clean the coker naptha and lower its sulphur levels in order to be converted to fuel.
Trafigura chartered the Probo Koala and while the ship was off the coast of Gibraltar poured tons of caustic soda and a catalyst into the dirty oil to remove the toxic mercaptans - a rough and ready process known as “caustic washing” or “Merox reaction”.
One Trafigura e-mail says: “This is as cheap as anyone can imagine and should make serious dollars.”
The method is cheap, but it generates such dangerous waste that it is effectively banned in most places around the world.
The e-mails show that in the months before the waste was dumped the company knew about the difficulties they would face in disposing of the waste.
“This operation is no longer allowed in the European Union, the United States and Singapore" it is "banned in most countries due to the 'hazardous nature of the waste'”, one e-mail warns.
Another e-mail points out that “environmental agencies do not allow disposal of the toxic caustic”.
On 3 July 2006, management cancels a plan to dispose of the waste safely because it was expensive
The Trafigura-hired tanker had made an attempt to dispose of its waste in Estonia, failing that, Trafigura attempted to offload the waste in the Netherlands. However, when the waste was offloaded the smell was so strong, the emergency services were called. Trafigura's Probo-Koala claimed that the waste was simply tank washings - the standard oil-water mixture produced by routine tank cleaning.
Samples were taken and Trafigura was told the waste was toxic, the cheap process had left a toxic sulphurous sludge in the tanks of the Probo Koala, and it would cost hundreds of thousands of euros to treat safely.
«According to Trafigura, the crew realised that the slop tank was full and the company contacted a specialist firm, Amsterdam Port Services (APS), to deal with the problem. The ship duly unloaded more than 500 cubic metres of hydrocarbon residues and various chemicals into a barge lying alongside, but the smell was so bad that the environmental authorities stopped the operation.
A dispute arose between the two companies. Eric de Turckheim, Trafigura's financial director, says: "APS, to whom we had contracted removal of the waste, unjustifiably demanded we pay €1,000 [$1,250] a cubic metre, which is exorbitant.” APS denies this version of events, explaining that "the waste did not correspond to the information provided. We told them we could process the waste, but that it would cost more.”
In London Trafigura's logistics director, Paul Duncan, decided to reload the slops. For APS this was unprecedented. Trafigura says it was simply a matter of cost. Every day the ship is in dock costs $35,000.»
Trafigura opted for the much cheaper option of reloading the waste and taking it elsewhere
Claude Dauphin [L] and Jean-Pierre Valentin, are escorted 16 November 2006 at the Abidjan jail
«On August 1, after a detour via Estonia and calls at the Canaries and Lomé, Togo, the Probo Koala arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, where it made another attempt at shedding its load. But, explains Trafigura: “We were not satisfied with safety arrangements. It looked as if local contractors wanted to refine the waste and sell it as fuel”. Claude Dauphin, the CEO of Trafigura, changes the plans to dispose of the waste in Nigeria. It ultimately ended up in Ivory Coast.
The firm's logistics division then decided to send the Probo Koala to Abidjan. “It is one of the best-equipped ports in West Africa”, a spokesperson says. However, the port's website makes no mention of waste handling. On August 9, 10 days before the ship docked, Tommy, a firm “specialising in the cleaning and upkeep of ships' holds”, obtained a permit to “recover waste oil and hydrocarbon residues to prevent [...] accidental spillage”.
Once the chemical waste had been delivered the Ivorian local firm dumped the caustic soda and petroleum residues on city waste tips, in sewers and lagoons all over Abidjan. The fumes and leakages from the black sludge caused hundreds of thousands of Ivorians to become ill, and several people died. The entire Ivory Coast government resigned the following month, acknowledging negligence»
sources: Le Monde, excerpts and informations taken from the Guardian's extensive coverage of Trafigura Case, BBC Newsnight, Minton Report at Wikileaks, Daily Kos, Volkskrant, Deutch News, Trafigura Emails[PDF 7MB]
Listen to Eric de Turckheim, co-founder of Trafigura attempt to explain to Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman why the company dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast illegally
Trafigura is also responsible for a Chemical explosion in Sogn og Fjordane in Norway
On the Side
Carter Ruck is one of UK's most expensive libel lawyers firm, since circa 2007/8 they have been under a contract with the McCann Couple, and are allegedly paid by the Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited Company, Trade mark No: 005917232, Date of Incorporation: 15/05/2007. Carter Ruck, according to a Portuguese lawyer have abused the McCann's lawyer request for a temporary injunction to prohibit a book based on the joint UK/PT police authorities' investigation to Madeleine McCann's disappearence written by the former Portuguese Judiciary Police Coordinator Gonçalo Amaral [until October 2, 2007]. Carter Ruck used the above mentioned injunction request to threat bloggers and sites of libel actions in an attempt to prevent the divulgation of the process case files translations, of the documentary based on the book 'Maddie, The Truth of the Lie' and to impede the publication of the book in English.