21 September 2009

Trafigura gets away with a small change settlement

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.


Colin Campbell said...

I think that their reputation is a bit shot. That said, it is such an anonymous business.

Claude said...

Hate to be a cynical old lady. But those rich corporations don't care about their reputation. Actually their code of honour among themselves is to get away with it.

jams o donnell said...

I wish it ruined it Colin. One can hope

I think they don't care either Claudia... until they get caught out!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Let's wish Greenpeace luck, let them take Trafigura to the cleaners. In both senses.

Melodie said...

I must be one of the rare few who are of the opinion that Trafigura is not the one who is to blame. As with the report by the High Court judge released yesterday, Trafigura was cleared of their charges, and the media responsible for the "wild(ly) inaccurate" articles were rightly reprimanded.

It should be known that (and was proven), that the company tasked BY Trafigura to dump the waste responsibly, dumped the waste independently and without authority from Trafigura.

(I quote/paraphrase from an article by Dow Jones Newswires): Over 20 independent experts were "unable to identify a link between exposure to the chemicals released from the slops and deaths, miscarriages, still births, birth defects, loss of visual acuity or other serious and chronic injuries."

The judge on Wednesday made it clear there was no evidence the waste had caused anything more than "flu-like symptoms" and said parts of the media had been irresponsible in their reporting. I wonder which parts.

High Court judge Alistair MacDuff, who presided over the case, also said during the hearing that some media statements had been "wildly inaccurate" and that experts were "quite clear" that the Probo Koala's slops couldn't have given rise to the sorts of symptoms and illness claimed in press reports.

It is easy to want to blame the big, rich oil companies. Those last 4 words alone definitely do not inspire confidence, and it is true that they are all too often the rogues of humankind. But, as we call for justice to be done, we should not be too quick to jump to conclusions based on sensational snippets of information. As much as is humanly possible, let us be objective in our stand, especially those in the media, whose power is often beyond comprehension.

jams o donnell said...

I would like to think so too Snoopu

Melodie, when a company gets a huge bill for safe disposal in Europe do they really think that a cheap contractor in West Africa was going to be safe and responsible?

Dream on!