BBC pays damages over toxic waste claims


The BBC apologised and agreed to pay £25 000 in damages to commodities trader Trafigura over claims the firm’s actions had caused deaths, miscarriages and injuries in Ivory Coast.

A report by BBC programme “Newsnight” focussed on gasoline “slops” discharged from a Trafigura-chartered vessel in August 2006, which were then illegally dumped by a company the global trader had hired to dispose of it, Trafigura said in a statement.

The BBC reported that Trafigura’s actions had led to a number of deaths and other serious injuries in Abidjan, the West African state’s main city.
“Trafigura has always maintained that the slops cannot have caused the deaths and serious injuries alleged by the BBC,” said Eric de Turckheim, director of Trafigura, one of the world’s leading oil and metals traders.
“We informed Newsnight of the detailed evidence before the programme was aired yet they chose to proceed with their highly damaging and false assertions,” he added in a statement.

The BBC initially attempted to justify the claims but had now accepted the allegations were wrong, the trader said. It had agreed to pay damages, which would be donated to charity, and broadcast an apology.

In September, the company and lawyers representing about 30 000 Ivorians agreed a pre-trial settlement to end a class action suit which had accused it of causing illness by dumping toxic waste in 2006.

Trafigura denied any wrongdoing and said the settlement, details of which were not disclosed in court, was not an admission of responsibility.

In a statement, the BBC said it had played “a leading role in bringing to the public’s attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of 500 tons of hazardous waste in Abidjan.”
“In September, Trafigura agreed to pay victims of the waste around £30 million in compensation for sickness suffered,” the statement said.
“However, the experts in that case were not able to establish a link between the waste and serious long term consequences including deaths.
“In light of this, the BBC acknowledges that the evidence does not establish that Trafigura’s waste caused deaths, miscarriages or serious or long term injuries.”