Trafigura lawsuits (re Côte d’Ivoire)

Toxic Waste, By:Fernost, Creative Commons Pour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

On 19 August 2006 the ship Probo Koala unloaded a waste shipment at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).  This waste was disposed of at open air sites around Abidjan.  The ship was chartered by the London office of Trafigura, a Dutch international petroleum trader.  The Probo Koala had attempted to discharge this waste at the port of Amsterdam, but the port service would not accept the waste without an additional handling charge because of the waste’s alleged toxicity.  The ship left the port of Amsterdam without discharging its waste.  After the waste from the ship was discharged in Abidjan, people living near the discharge sites began to suffer from a range of illnesses (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, breathlessness, headaches, skin damage, and swollen stomachs).  Sixteen people have died, allegedly from exposure to this waste, and more than 100,000 have sought medical attention.

Trafigura sent two of its executives to Abidjan in August 2006 to investigate what happened.  These executives and a representative from a Trafigura subsidiary, Puma Energy, were arrested by Ivorian authorities and imprisoned.  On 12 February 2007 the Government of Côte d’Ivoire signed a settlement agreement with Trafigura in which the company agreed to pay $198 million to the Ivorian government for a compensation fund, the construction of a waste treatment plant and to assist in the recovery operations.  However, the company stressed this payment was not "damages" and that it did not admit liability.  Côte d’Ivoire agreed to drop any prosecutions or claims, now or in the future, against Trafigura.  After this settlement agreement was made, the Trafigura executives and the Puma Energy representative were released from prison.

Claims in the United Kingdom

Probo Koala shipIn November 2006, the High Court of Justice in London agreed to hear a group action by about 30,000 claimants from Côte d’Ivoire against Trafigura over the alleged dumping of toxic waste from the Probo Koala.  Applicants alleged that the waste had high levels of caustic soda, as well as a sulphur compound and hydrogen sulphide making it hazardous waste as defined by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes.  

Trafigura denied the waste was toxic and claimed the waste was standard waste from onboard operations of ships (“slops” as defined by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships).  Trafigura was alleged to have shipped the untreated chemical waste to Côte d’Ivoire with knowledge that there were no facilities to treat it.  Trafigura denied responsibility, stating that they had entrusted the waste to an Ivorian disposal company, Tommy, which was established a few weeks before the ship’s arrival.  Trafigura claimed it had no grounds for suspecting that Tommy would improperly dispose of the waste.  Trafigura denied the number of applicants/victims and stated that only 69 people suffered significant injury.  On 23 March 2009, the court granted the plaintiffs a temporary injunction barring Trafigura from contacting any of the claimants in the case.  This injunction came after counsel for the claimants presented evidence that the company had been contacting individual claimants urging them to change their sworn statements.  

In September 2009, the parties to the UK lawsuit reached a settlement agreement in which Trafigura agreed to pay each of the 30,000 claimants a certain amount, approximately $1500.  The parties released a joint statement that said, among other things, "independent experts are 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. Leigh Day and Co, in the light of the expert evidence, now acknowledge that the slops could at worst have caused a range of short term low level flu like symptoms and anxiety".

In October 2009 an individual, Claude Gohourou, came forward claiming to represent the victims through his organization - National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Côte d’Ivoire.  Mr Gohourou succeeded in freezing the bank account in which the settlement funds were being held.  The claimants' lawyers dispute the authenticity of this organization and Mr Gohourou's authority to distribute the funds to the claimants.  On 22 January 2010, the Court of Appeals in Abidjan ruled in favour of Mr Gohourou and his organization and ordered the settlement funds be transferred to him.  In mid-February 2010 the parties reached an agreement about the distribution of the settlement funds.  However, 6000 of the victims still have not received the compensation.

In June 2016, the High Court ruled that Leigh Day, the law firm representing the victims, should compensat the victims that had not received compensation due to the breach of its its duty of care.  Leigh day declared: "...were devastated when some of the monies were misappropriated. We did our damnedest to recover the monies resulting in the great majority of our clients having received their compensation."

Claims in the Netherlands

In February 2008, Dutch prosecutors served notice that they intend to file criminal charges against Trafigura, among others, for its alleged part in the disposal of waste in Côte d’Ivoire.  In June 2008 an Amsterdam court began hearing evidence in this case.  The Dutch trial started in June 2010.  

The Dutch prosecutors accused Trafigura of illegally exporting hazardous waste to Côte d’Ivoire.  The allegations against the company are that it breached Dutch export and environmental laws as well as forging official documents.  Trafigura rejected these charges.  In July 2010 the Dutch court ruled that the company had concealed the dangerous nature of the waste aboard the Probo Koala and fined the company €1 million.  The Dutch court also convicted a Trafigura employee and the Ukrainian captain of the Probo Koala for their roles in the matter. 

In the meantime, Greenpeace filed a complaint with the Court of Appeal in The Hague trying to compel the public prosecutor to prosecute the company for more than just the export of hazardous waste.  In April 2011, the appeal court ruled that the public prosecution department is not required to prosecute Trafigura for the dumping of the waste in Côte d’Ivoire. 

When the regional court in Amsterdam decided in 2008 not to prosecute Trafigura's co-founder and director Claude Dauphin, the prosecutors appealed the court's decision.  They were turned down and later lodged another appeal before the Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the appeals court in Amsterdam to review the original decision.  In January 2012, the court decided that Claude Dauphin can be prosecuted for the alleged illegal export of waste by Trafigura.  In November 2012 the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office and Trafigura reached an out-of-court settlement.  Trafigura agreed to pay €300,000 compensation and paid a €67,000 fine in return for the withdrawal of the case against Claude Dauphin.

In February 2015, lawyers representing 110,937 Ivorians sent a summons to Trafigura in respect of a new lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Trafigura caused " bodily, moral and economic the plaintiffs," and requests that Trafigura pay each claimant 2,500 euros in compensation, as well as cleaning up the waste.  In November 2016, a Dutch court rejected the claim by a foundation representing them, finding that the foundation did not establish that the claim was in the best interests of the affected Ivorians.

Claims in France

In July 2008, three French victims of the Probo Koala incident filed a complaint against Trafigura before an examining magistrate in Paris alleging corruption, involuntary homicide and physical harm leading to death.  

- Court finds Leigh Day breached duty of care to Trafigura claimant, John Hyde, Law Society Gazette (UK)
- "100,000 victims of Ivory Coast toxic spill launch Dutch suit", Yahoo News, 20 Feb 2015
- "Dutch Probo Koala toxic waste cases finally settled out of court",, 16 Nov 2012
- "Trafigura lessons have not been learned, report warns", Fiona Harvey, Guardian [UK], 25 Sep 2012
- "Trafigura director can be prosecuted says Dutch court", Expatica, 30 Jan 2012
- "Trafigura fined €1m for exporting toxic waste to Africa", Rob Evans, Guardian [UK], 23 Jul 2010
- "Fear over Ivory Coast ruling on Trafigura waste pay-out", BBC News, 22 Jan 2010
- "Trader Trafigura settles Ivorian waste case", Loucoumane Coulibaly & Reed Stevenson, Reuters, 20 Sep 2009
- "Oil company accused of 'nobbling' witnesses in African toxic waste case", Frances Gibb, Times [UK], 24 Mar 2009
- "Ivory Coast turns to UK in class action over toxic waste", Times [UK], 4 Jun 2008
- "Update: Trafigura To Pay Ivory Coast EUR7.6M Over Toxic Waste", Lananh Nguyen, Dow Jones Newswires, 17 Apr 2008
- "Dutch plan to charge Trafigura over toxic ship", Reuters, 19 Feb 2008
- "Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste probe goes to France", afrol News [Lesotho], 26 Jul 2007
- "Toxic waste deal won't halt case", BBC News, 15 Feb 2007
- [FR] "Déchets toxiques : Trafigura dédommage la Cote d’Ivoire mais nie toute responsabilité", Véronique Smée, Novethic, 14 Feb 2007
- "UK action over 'toxic waste' case", BBC News, 2 Feb 2007
- "Neglect and Fraud Blamed for Toxic Dumping in Ivory Coast", Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, 24 Nov 2006
- "Global Sludge Ends in Tragedy for Ivory Coast", Lydia Polgreen & Marlise Simons, New York Times, 2 Oct 2006

- Trafigura : Probo Koala updates
- Trafigura: Amnesty International Report, 27 Sep 2012
- [PDF] Trafigura & Leigh Day: Agreed Final Joint Statement, 19 Sep 2009
- Leigh Day [counsel for plaintiffs]: International Claims - Ivory Coast 
- Leigh Day: Victims of toxic waste in despair at court ruling, 22 Jan 2010
- Amnesty International & Greenpeace: [PDF] The Toxic Truth, 25 Sep 2012
- Sherpa: [PDF] Probo Koala: A catastrophe emblématique, justice exemplaire, 9 Jul 2008
- [FR] Commission internationale d’enquête sur les déchets toxiques dans le District d’Abidjan [établie par le Gouvernement de Côte d’Ivoire] : [DOC] Rapport de la commission internationale d'enquete sur les dechets toxiques deverses dans le district d'Abidjan, 19 Feb 2007

- [FR] Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH): Affaire des déchets toxiques : une transaction au détriment de la justice et de la réparation pour les victimes, 16 Feb 2007
- Greenpeace International: Toxic Waste in Abidjan : Greenpeace Evaluation, 15 Sep 2006

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Author: (Côte d'Ivoire)

« Probo Koala : la justice néerlandaise refuse de juger Trafigura », 30 novembre 2016

...Une cour néerlandaise a débouté...une fondation assurant représenter plus de 100.000 victimes du déversement de déchets toxiques par le cargo Probo Koala à Abdijan en 2006, assurant que la plainte n’était pas crédible.

Regroupées au sein d’une association de droit néerlandais, les victimes avaient assigné en justice en 2015 la multinationale Trafigura, spécialisée dans le négoce des matières premières, notamment le pétrole, réclamant des indemnités et le nettoyage des déchets...

...Trafigura, qui a toujours nié que le déversement ait provoqué décès et maladies graves...n’a jamais été condamnée pour le déversement alors que des accords à l’amiable ont été conclus en Grande-Bretagne et en Côte d’Ivoire...

...Une deuxième assignation en justice a été déposée en mars devant une cour néerlandaise par une autre fondation.


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Author: RFI

En Côte d'Ivoire, une manifestation des victimes des déchets toxiques a été empêchée, jeudi matin à Abidjan, par la police ivoirienne. Plusieurs dizaines de manifestants ont été sommés de quitter les lieux peu de temps après s'être réunis devant l'ambassade américaine. Les faits remontent à 2006, lorsqu'un cargo, le Probo Koala, a déversé des tonnes de résidus toxiques autour d'Abidjan, faisant officiellement 17 morts, et des dizaines de milliers de victimes. Dix ans après l'affaire dite du Probo Koala, les victimes devaient être toutes indemnisées, conformément à une décision de justice prise à Londres en juin dernier. La négligence du cabinet chargé d'indemniser les victimes avait alors été actée. Celui-ci avait en effet versé l'argent à un intermédiaire ivoirien peu digne de confiance et une partie de la somme destinée aux victimes avait été détournée. Mais les victimes s'impatientent comme l'explique à RFI, Charles Koffi, président du Réseau national pour la défense des victimes des déchets toxiques de Côte d'Ivoire...Les victimes, souffrent, certaines sont handicapées à vie du fait « des effets pervers des déchets », d'autres décèdent, insiste Charles Koffi qui reproche aux autorités leur passivité. L'association continuera son action jusqu'à ce qu'une issue soit trouvée à leur problème.

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Author: RFI

Dix ans après l'affaire du Probo Koala en Côte d'Ivoire, toutes les victimes des déchets toxiques de ce cargo vont toutes être indemnisées. C'est une décision de justice rendue à Londres jeudi 17 juin. Les faits remontent à 2006, lorsqu'un cargo, le Probo Koala, a déversé des tonnes de résidus toxiques autour d'Abidjan. Les autorités ivoiriennes ont alors recensé 17 morts et des milliers victimes. Un bras judiciaire a été entamé. Mais entre négociations internationales, corruption et détournement d'argent, obtenir dédommagement a été difficile pour certaines d'entre elles. Près de 5000 personnes n'avaient jusque là rien touché. Mais elles n'ont jamais baissé les bras. Amadou Ouattara n'a jamais déménagé. Cela fait 33 ans qu'avec sa famille, le jeune homme vit à Plateau Dokui. Un quartier d'Abidjan devenu maudit en 2006. Des déchets toxiques du Probo Koala ont été entreposés à moins de 500 mètres des habitations. « Ca a commencé par les mauvaises odeurs. On est tombé malade. J'avais mal au ventre, je vomissais, j'avais mal à la tête. Le cas de mon petit frère nous a beaucoup inquiétés. Il a été hospitalisé, et le médecin nous avait dit de l'emmener du quartier », se souvient-il. Presque tous les membres de sa famille sont tombés malades. Aujourd'hui encore, Amadou souffre de violents maux de tête qui empêchent parfois cet informaticien de travailler devant son écran. Cela fait dix ans qu'il mène bataille pour obtenir réparation. « On voulait vraiment faire entendre notre voix. On n'est pas des animaux. Après toutes ces années, je ne pensais pas que l'on pourrait aboutir. Je me suis dit que c'est gars sont vraiment puissants donc que ce serait difficile. Grâce à Dieu, avant-hier on nous a dit que l'on a gagné au combat. On est fiers, on est heureux. » Amadou va enfin recevoir son indemnité : 750 000 FCFA, soit environ 1100 euros. Au total, le déchargement des déchets toxiques du cargo pétrolier Probo Koala a fait 17 morts et plus de 40 000 victimes, selon un bilan officiel.

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Author: RFI

Dix ans après l'affaire dite du Probo Koala, les victimes vont toutes être indemnisées, après une décision de justice prise à Londres. Les faits remontent à 2006, lorsqu'un cargo, le Probo Koala, a déversé des tonnes de résidus toxiques autour d'Abidjan, faisant officiellement 17 morts, et des dizaines de milliers de victimes. C'est une grande victoire pour les victimes des déchets toxiques en Côte d'Ivoire. Entre négociations internationales et détournement d'argent, l'affaire semblait indémêlable et sans fin pour les victimes. La justice anglaise vient de leur donner gain de cause. Elle a constaté la négligence du cabinet chargé de les indemniser. Celui-ci avait en effet versé l'argent à un intermédiaire ivoirien peu digne de confiance et une partie de la somme destinée aux victimes avait été détournée. Dix ans après l'arrivée du Probo Koala dans le port d'Abidjan, toutes vont enfin recevoir leurs 750 000 FCFA. Un soulagement pour Denis Yao Pipira, le président de l'Union nationale des victimes de déchets toxiques de Côte d'Ivoire. « C'est une victoire importante parce que des gens ont souffert. Les conséquences ont été multiples : psychologiques, morales, des problèmes de santé récurrents, la perte du travail. Nous pensons que justice a été rendue et c'est un grand soulagement pour nous. » Au total, 17 morts et plus de 43 000 victimes avaient officiellement été recensés suite à la catastrophe. C'était en 2006. Le Probo Koala, un cargo pétrolier avait alors déchargé dans le port d'Abidjan plus de 500 tonnes de déchets hautement toxiques. L'armateur du paquebot, condamné, n'a toutefois jamais reconnu sa responsabilité.

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Author: (Côte d'Ivoire))

Plus de 4000 victimes de la Côte d'Ivoire victorieuses dans le cadre de la procédure contre le Cabinet Leigh Day pour faute professionnelle dans le litige contre Trafigura suite à la catastrophe des déchets toxiques du Probo Koala survenue en août 2006. Le 27 Août 2014, une assignation a été délivrée au nom des victimes de la catastrophe des déchets toxiques qui n’avaient pas reçu leur part des fonds de compensation reçus suite au protocole d’accord entre Leigh Day et Trafigura, signé le 8 Septembre 2009 et la disparition éventuelle des fonds en 2010 . Leigh Day avait négligemment transféré les fonds de compensation en une seule tranche dans un compte bancaire en Côte-d’Ivoire en dépit de la corruption et de potentielles revendications malhonnêtes concernant la somme d’argent. Après plus de deux années de litige, la Haute Cour de justice a rendu son jugement. Le cabinet Harding Mitchell Solicitors, basé à Londres, représente les victimes qui ont été privées de compensation...Aujourd’hui, le juge Andrew Smith a rendu son jugement. La réclamation des victimes pour dommages et intérêts a été acceptée par le juge qui a conclu que Leigh Day avait manqué à [son] obligation de diligence envers les victimes. Une nouvelle date d’audience sera fixée pour l’évaluation du montant des dommages intérêts...Après une longue lutte pour que justice soit faite, les victimes qui ont été privées de leur compensation ont finalement été reconnues comme telles. 

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17 June 2016

Court finds Leigh Day breached duty of care to Trafigura claimant

Author: John Hyde, Law Society Gazette (UK)

The High Court has ruled that national firm Leigh Day breached a contract and its duty of care by failing to protect a multi-million-pound fund for victims of a discharge of chemical waste in Ivory Coast.

The firm had secured a £30m settlement in September 2009 from global energy company Trafigura, with the settlement paid into an Ivorian bank nominated by Leigh Day...

A third-party organisation made a fraudulent claim against the funds which was upheld in the Ivorian Supreme Court, a decision the firm admitted was 'borne of corruption'. By March 2010, Leigh Day had made an agreement with the organisation for 23,000 of the victims to be paid their share of the settlement sum, leaving 6,624 claimants with nothing...

...[T]he court ruled Leigh Day did not take proper steps to protect the settlement sum from being acquired dishonestly by third parties making claims to it...

...[A] Leigh Day spokesperson said: ‘We are entirely sympathetic with the position the claimant...

‘We fought hard to gain compensation for all 30,000 of our clients and we were devastated when some of the monies were misappropriated. We did our damnedest to recover the monies resulting in the great majority of our clients having received their compensation.

...[H]owever we believe the judgment of Mr Justice Smith looks at what happened through the prism of hindsight.’

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2 March 2016

Victims of 2006 toxic waste spill in Côte d’Ivoire file new lawsuit against Trafigura in Dutch court

Author: AFP

"Ivory Coast toxic spill victims launch Dutch suit"

Thousands of Ivorian victims of a deadly 2006 toxic waste spill are suing Dutch multinational oil trader Trafigura to demand compensation…The class-action lawsuit before the Amsterdam district court is the second in the Netherlands by a large group of residents from…Abidjan who claim to have been affected by the spill. Law firm Beer Advocaten said…that summons had been issued on behalf of Dutch group Stichting Victimes des Dechets Toxiques Cote d'Ivoire (Victims of Toxic Waste in Ivory Coast)…Trafigura, which denies any link between the waste and deaths, has previously reached out-of-court settlements…Britain and the Ivory Coast. The company…declined to comment on Wednesday.

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17 November 2015

Many victims of 2007 toxic waste dump in Côte d'Ivoire have yet to receive compensation

Author: Emilie Iob, Voice of America

"Ivory Coast Toxic Waste Victims Still Await Payments", 12 Nov 2015

In Ivory Coast, the government announced earlier this month that all locations affected by the dumping of toxic waste have been cleaned…In 2006, tanker trucks illegally dumped several hundred tons of toxic waste into open-air spots in and around Abidjan. The waste came from the vessel Probo Koala, chartered by Dutch oil trading firm Trafigura…Trafigura has always denied being liable for that. In 2007, it agreed to pay over $160 million in exchange for being exempt from future prosecution. It paid an extra $37 million to settle a court case in the U.K. two years later. The money was meant to be used to clean the dumping sites and compensate the victims. But a lot of victims still have not received any compensation, said Charles Koffi, president of Renadvidet-CI, an association of victims


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24 July 2015

UK authorities 'lack resources' to investigate Trafigura over toxic waste

Author: James Ball & Harry Davies, Guardian (UK)

UK authorities have admitted they lack both the expertise and resources to investigate the oil company Trafigura for prosecution over its role in a toxic waste dump in Ivory Coast which left up to 100,000 people with skin rashes, headaches and respiratory problems… Trafigura attempted to keep a report detailing its involvement secret using a super-injunction against the Guardian in 2009, which was challenged and ultimately defeated …[D]espite the involvement of UK-based executives in the planning of how to dispose of the waste, no UK prosecution has ever taken place…The Environment Agency’s report conceded that if the allegations against Trafigura were true, “a serious offence was committed with relevant aspect of the conduct taking place within the jurisdiction”…A spokesman for the Environment Agency said… “We decided not to pursue an investigation overseas because of the length of time since the alleged crime and the likelihood of securing a successful prosecution.”…Trafigura said it was “disappointed” Amnesty International was still pursuing it over its role in the toxic waste dump…"Trafigura maintains that given over the last decade the Probo Koala incident has already been exhaustively investigated by authorities in the Ivory Coast, the UK and the Netherlands and settlements have been reached in a number of jurisdictions, it is time to move on..."

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24 July 2015

UK giving green light for corporate crime

Author: Amnesty International

…UK authorities have informed Amnesty International that they do not have the tools, resources or expertise to investigate whether the multinational commodities giant Trafigura conspired to dump toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire…After the dumping more than 100,000 people sought medical attention. Côte d’Ivoire authorities reported at least 15 deaths…“The UK’s failure to act is a further disaster for justice and accountability […]” said Lucy Graham, Legal Adviser in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Team…[The organisation] warns that the Trafigura case is not a one-off, highlighting a series of cases in which powerful UK multinationals have been implicated in serious human rights-related abuses abroad that may violate UK criminal law… Amnesty International is calling for:

  • Stronger legislation to hold UK companies directly accountable for serious crimes committed in the context of their global operations unless they can prove efforts to prevent them, akin to foreign bribery rules under the 2010 UK Bribery Act.

  • More resources, training and specialized support for investigators dealing with corporate crime.

…Trafigura denies responsibility for the toxic waste dumping and maintains that it believed the local company would dispose of the waste safely and lawfully.

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