21 November 2012

Cote d'Ivoire: Trafigura Fine a Set-Back for Africa's Environmental Justice

Greenpeace Africa condemns the derisory fine levelled on Trafigura Beheer BV as part of a plea bargain. The Dutch company and its chairman Dauphin had been charged with illegally exporting waste to Cote d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) in 2006.

Recently, rather than take the risk of a trial in an open court, the company's chairman bargained its way to a derisory fine of (Euros) 67 000, a slap on the wrist for its billionaire owner Claude Dauphin personally.

"The settlement that was announced is very sad news; although the earlier court verdicts on the company Trafigura have now become final and the company agreed to pay the earlier imposed EURO I million fine and an additional 300k euro based on the profits it made by illegally exporting the toxic waste, this does not change the fact that executives responsible for the operations of powerful companies can evade legal responsibility for committing serious environmental and human right crimes. Trafigura's chairman will now not be held to account" said Greenpeace Africa Executive Director, Michael O'Brien-Onyeka.

"The public prosecutor in the Netherlands decided to settle to avoid long legal processes and to avoid high costs. Trafigura has simply more money and manpower than the public prosecutor and procedures can stretch endlessly. A pattern emerges. Trafigura has consistently outmoneyed and outlawyered their opponents in all lawsuits coming out of the Probo Koala disaster. All are settled now, but where is the justice in all this?"

The settlement, said Greenpeace Africa, was not in the general interest but rather set an appalling precedent that powerful companies can sidestep the need to obey environmental laws and uphold norms and standards.

"Our recent Amnesty International- Greenpeace report, "The Toxic Truth"[1], illustrated how Dauphin was involved in crucial moments in the decision making in the creation and the disposal of the toxic waste. The evidence was so overwhelming that it is a shame that the Netherlands with its proud record for human rights, failed to grasp this opportunity by putting their best and most indefatigable prosecutors onto the case." Continued O'Brien-Onyeka.

All that remains now, said O'Brien-Onyeka, was for the government of Cote d'Ivoire to reassess the legality - and wisdom - of its 2007 settlement that gave Trafigura immunity from prosecution.

"Greenpeace remains concerned about this: if even a rich country as the Netherlands lack the willingness to follow through, how will other poorer countries ever prosecute serious environmental crimes committed by powerful companies like Trafigura. At the very least, this trader should be banned from ever having anything to do on our continent at least ever again," concluded O'brien Onyeka.

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