Trafigura appeal opens

14 November 2011 - 17:10 By Sapa-AFP

An appeal has begun against a million-euro fine on multinational oil trader Trafigura for the illegal export of toxic waste. It was dumped in Ivory Coast after a stopover in the Netherlands.

Trafigura was fined one million euros by a Dutch court in July last year for breaking European waste export laws when the toxic cargo arrived in Amsterdam on board the ship Probo Koala, before being redirected to Abidjan.

Monday's hearing opened with judges sorting out the programme. They will in the afternoon decide on a request by Trafigura's lawyers whether to allow the Probo Koala's Ukrainian captain at the time to testify at a later stage.

Sergiy Chertov, who got a five-month suspended jail term, did not give evidence in the original trial.

On July 23 last year, an Amsterdam court also found Trafigura guilty of hiding the cargo's real nature when it arrived in Amsterdam. Judges however acquitted the company of forgery.

Both Trafigura and the prosecution, which asked for a two-million-euro fine, appealed the sentence.

On July 2, 2006, toxic residues on board the Probo Koala were prevented from being offloaded for treatment in Amsterdam's port and redirected to Abidjan, where they were dumped on city waste tips.

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

But a United Nations report published in September 2009, found "strong" evidence blaming the waste for at least 15 deaths and several hospitalisations.

The dumping caused 17 deaths and thousands of cases of poisoning, Ivorian judges said.