- Title: IVORY COAST: Ivorian court jails two for 2006 toxic waste dumping
- Date: 24th October 2008
- Summary: (BN11) ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (FILE - SEPTEMBER 2008) (REUTERS) BOY'S BODY SHOWING PIMPLES AND SKIN LESIONS VALLEY NEXT TO VILLAGE WHERE TOXIC WASTE WAS DUMPED DUMPED RUBBISH IN THE VALLEY WOMAN EMPTYING TRASH INTO THE VALLEY MAN PADDLING IN POLLUTED WATER POLLUTED WATER
- Embargoed: 8th November 2008 12:00
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA2UOJ742JLY6FU8O0WZ6N5NDHK
- Story Text: A court in the Ivory Coast jails two men for 20 and five years respectively, over the 2006 dumping of toxic waste from a ship which is blamed for the deaths of 17 people and for making thousands sick.
A court in Ivory Coast has found two men guilty in the 2006 case of a ship chartered by an international oil trader which dumped toxic waste in the country's commercial capital, blamed for the deaths of 17 people and for making thousands ill.
The ship, the Probo Koala, dumped more than 580 tonnes of toxic waste in up to twelve sites in Abidjan.
In the sentencing late on Wednesday (October 22), Nigerian, Salomon Ugborugbo, director of the local Tommy company which had used trucks to distribute the waste to open sites across the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan, was given a 20 year sentence on a charge of "poisoning".
The prosecution had asked for a life sentence.
"I must confess I think that it's very severe because during testimonies in the court it was shown that Mr Salomon didn't know that this was a toxic product, and the people from Trafigura, who were kept outside this court case knew the toxic character of the said product. The proof is that in Amsterdam they were repressed because it was shown this was a toxic product," Ugborugbo's lawyer Diabate Bamba Oule said.
"I will refer the matter to the Supreme Court in the next few days so that we can re-examine this business," Oule added.
Ivorian shipping agent Desire Kouao received a five-year sentence for "complicity" in the same charge.
Seven local port, customs and maritime officials were acquitted of charges over their role in the toxic waste scandal which shocked the world's no. 1 cocoa producer and raised questions about the dumping of toxic materials in Africa.
No representatives from the Dutch-based international oil trader, Trafigura, which had chartered the Panamanian-registered Probo Koala vessel that unloaded the waste in Abidjan, were accused in the trial that opened late last month.
Trafigura had already agreed a nearly $200 million out-of-court compensation settlement with the Ivory Coast government which exempted it from legal proceedings in the West African country.
The company denies any responsibility for the deaths and illnesses suffered by Abidjan residents after the dumping.
But the president of the union of victims of toxic waste, Mavin Ouattara Aboubakare, remained unconvinced.
"We would think there was a 'no case to answer situation.' But why? That means that if the others (accused) had any money, they also would have had no case to answer. But as they (Trafigura) gave 100 million, there's no case to answer for them. But the director general, he admits that his company, Trafigura, is responsible. It's not right."
When the Abidjan trial opened, Trafigura said in a statement it would present independent experts in due course to prove the waste could not have been responsible for their illness.
The petrochemical waste was described by Trafigura as "slops", residues from gasoline mixed with caustic washings.
Defence lawyers in the Abidjan hearings had repeatedly complained that it was unfair for their clients to be in the dock when executives from Trafigura were not on trial.
But the Dutch-based company faces a possible class action suit next year in London courts brought by a British law firm representing thousands of Ivorian victims seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation.
Many victims have already been compensated from the out-of-court settlement, but many say they have not received enough.
At the height of the scandal in 2006, Abidjan hospitals were overwhelmed as thousands sought treatment for vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties after exposure to noxious fumes.
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