The Dutch Supreme Court fined Trafigura Beheer, one of the world's largest companies trading commodities, $1.3M for delivering hazardous waste to Amsterdam while concealing the true nature of the wastes and exporting the wastes to Cote D'Ivoire for disposal. The high court described Trafigura's actions as the most serious offense possible under the European Union's waste shipment regulation prohibiting such exports to third-world countries. According to Amnesty International, the court's guilty verdict is the first time the company has been held criminally accountable for its involvement in the export of hazardous wastes to Cote D'Ivoire.
The case arises from the 2006 incident wherein Trafigura off-loaded waste from a ship in Amsterdam for disposal but for alleged cost considerations, reloaded and transported the waste to Cote D'Ivoire. In August, 2006, 408 tons of highly toxic petrochemical waste and caustic soda were dumped in various locations around the City of Abidjan. As a result, over 100,000 local residents sought medical attention for a range of health problems. Trafigura already has paid other settlements resulting from this 2006 incident including $197M to the Ivory Coast government and $47.8M to affected residents.
The Dutch case focused on events in the Netherlands highlighting to many observers the challenges of prosecuting companies for actions that cross borders. Amnesty International has met and worked with those impacted by the dumping and noted "there is an urgent need for the international community to learn the lessons from this incident. States must do more to ensure that multinationals respect human rights both at home and abroad." More information about this incident and the recent verdict can be obtained through Amnesty International at http://www.amnestyusa.org/.