The BBC reported yesterday that 30,000 victims of the Trafigura-caused toxic waste disaster in Abidjan are being offered £1,000 each in compensation.
The payout offer amounts to about £30m in total – a little over more than 10% of Trafigura's declared annual profits. Trafigura also provided £100m to the government of Ivory Coast in 2007 to pay for a clean-up and to make some payments to the families of 16 people who had died.
The confidential negotiations are likely to include a further payment for the costs of the British law firm Leigh Day, which took on the case on a no-win, no-fee basis and is thought to have risked more than £10m. Leigh Day's original claim for the victims was for another £100m, which would have given them just over £3,000 each.
Marvin Outtarra, described as the president of the Union of Victims of Toxic Waste, told Reuters: "This compensation to be shared equally among all the victims doesn't work for me. Trafigura has given no compensation to the families of the deceased and the amount of compensation of 750,000 CFA francs does not vary based on the severity of the injuries." London-based Trafigura declared profits of $440m (£270m) last year on turnover of more than $70bn. Its traders are reported to receive annual bonuses of up to $1m.
On a happier note Yesterday’s Observer said it would continue legal action against Trafigura. The organisation wants Trafigura prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, citing documents it says demonstrate the waste's high toxicity. Trafigura also faces a Dutch prosecution for allegedly lying about the true nature of its waste.
Greenpeace said of Trafigura's strategy: "Justice is not a commodity to be bought and sold: only when those who are responsible are prosecuted under the full force of the law and made to pay for their crime will environmental legislation become a force to be reckoned with."
The Ivorian National Federation of Victims, which says it represents nearly all the victims, accused Trafigura of trying to avert a public trial. Denis Pipira Yao, the group's president, told Reuters in Abidjan: "As people are poor in Africa, Trafigura is using money to get away with it."
I hope this derisory settlement is not the last we hear of this. It would be good to read of Turckheim’s imprisonment on manslaughter charges and the bankruptcy of this amoral rabble. Sadly I won’t hold my breath.