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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 August 2010

Profiting from wrecking the environment

AN OIL trading company has been fined 840,000 after being convicted for concealing the dangerous nature of toxic waste which was subsequently dumped in the Ivory Coast in 2006, causing thousands of people to fall ill.

John Sharpe

The company, Swiss-based Trafigura, one of the world's biggest commodities traders, made 651 million profits last year.

The fine represents just 0.12% of its annual earnings. The judge in the Amsterdam trial found that Trafigura had done what European regulations on hazardous waste were designed to prevent - "namely the export of waste to the third world and harming the environment".

Prosecutors argued that Trafigura had put "self-interest above people's health and environment". It would have cost 626 a tonne to dispose of the 500 tonnes of the foul-smelling sludge, an oil refining by-product, in Amsterdam, but only 22 a tonne in the Ivory Coast, saving the company 334,000.

The Ivorian operator, Compagnie Tommy, used a fleet of trucks to dump the slops under cover of darkness in the open air at over a dozen sites around the city of Abidjan.

The slops contained mercaptans,sulphur-based chemicals. The boss of Tommy was jailed and the Ivorian government was forced to resign. Last year, Trafigura had agreed to a 30 million settlement to 31,000 Ivorian claimants. That court case cost over 100 million in legal fees, more than three times that which the claimants had won.

In exchange Trafigura accepts no legal liability. They also paid 126 million to Ivory Coast to help clean up the waste. Part of that agreement was the release of two jailed company executives and that Trafigura would not face a prosecution in Ivory Coast.

Trafigura's legal firm, attempted to use a 'super injunction' to prevent the Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question by Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, about the case.

A super injunction is where the party bringing the injunction, the reason for the injunction and even the existence of the injunction is secret on pain of imprisonment.

The attempt was dropped after the details of the question were plastered all over the internet. Sue that!

These callous, rich and powerful companies, when caught, only suffer a pin prick of a fine. It appears that people's health and the environment are just so many obstacles to be overcome. Clearly, as long as big business continues to dominate society it will continue to wreck the environment.

  • Students and academics at Oxford are angry that their university has accepted more than 3 million from a foundation established by Graham Sharp, a founder of Trafigura. The University authorities are of course "delighted" to receive the bung.
  • The former chief of the Octel chemical works near Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, is facing extradition to the US after the company (renamed Innospec) admitted to bribing officials to sell toxic fuel additives to Iraq.
  • Tonnes of tetra ethyl lead (TEL) were exported to Iraq despite it being banned as a health hazard in the US and Europe. Octel also bribed officials in Indonesia to delay the phasing out of TEL there.
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    In The Socialist 4 August 2010:

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    Anti-cuts campaign

    'Radical' cuts require serious action

    Waltham Forest's Labour council faces opposition

    Coventry campaigners fight cuts of 140 million

    Swansea trades council leads battle for services

    Campaigners answer Bristol's 'Big Conversation'

    Cuts news: Mental health services facing the axe

    NSSN pledged to fight cuts

    War and occupation

    Troops out now!

    Afghanistan: US strategy in disarray


    Oppose divisive academies policy

    Workplace news and analysis

    Talks resume at British Airways

    Angry workers strike over pay freeze and bosses' bonuses

    Fighting fire service cuts

    Witch-hunted Unison activist wins tribunal

    Workplace Debate

    Unite general secretary election

    Youth fight for jobs

    We won't be a lost generation, fight for jobs and education!

    No to privatisation of our universities

    For real jobs, not slave labour

    Environment and socialism

    Profiting from wrecking the environment

    Stop the Cardiff incinerator

    Save Wanstead Flats

    Tamil Solidarity

    Daily Mail admits guilt over smearing Tamil hunger striker

    Socialist Party LGBT

    Campaigning at Leeds Pride

    Socialist Party events

    Book now for the summer camp!

    Socialism 2010 - a weekend of discussion and debate

    International socialist news and analysis

    Love Parade catastrophe was entirely preventable

    Garment workers demand a living wage

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    Asda profiting from low pay

    Tories put profits before patients

    Rich just carry on getting richer

    Fast news

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    The howlers' world and ours

    How the banks rip us off


    Home   |   The Socialist 4 August 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

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