The Dutch public prosecutor is seeking a maximum fine for commodities trader Trafigura, saying it violated environmental laws when transporting toxic waste that ultimately ended up in the open air in Ivory Coast.
The prosecutor said the privately-held company should pay €2 million ($2.5 million) in fines, charging it with exporting waste, concealing its harmfulness and forgery.
“Trafigura has let its own interests prevail above health and the environment … Other choices could have been made but haste, speed and money have prevailed,” public prosecutor Renske Mackor told an Amsterdam court.
Chartered by Dutch-based Trafigura Beheer BV, the ship Probo Koala had wanted to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of chemical slops in Amsterdam in July 2006 but decided not to after being told it would have to pay clean-up costs.
About a month later, the material was dumped in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan and thousands of residents of the city complained of illnesses.
The government of Ivory Coast said 16 people died but a British judge said last September there was no evidence the waste had caused anything more than “flu-like symptoms”.
Public prosecutor Mackor and colleague Luuk Boogert concluded after a 3-hour closing argument, in which they were citing from internal Trafigura e-mails, that Trafigura was guilty of three offences.
The 2 million euro fine is the maximum allowed under Dutch law, which lets prosecutors fine companies as much as €670 000 per offence.
Trafigura denies any wrongdoing for events in Ivory Coast and the Netherlands, and will conduct its case from Thursday.
The events in Ivory Coast are not part of the prosecutors’ charges nor are they part of the investigation, but the prosecutors accuse the parties of violating environmental or criminal laws in the Netherlands.
The prosecutor also charged Amsterdam Port Services BV (APS), a former APS director, the ship’s captain, a Trafigura employee, and the city of Amsterdam of offences including forgery, complicity or illegally handing over waste.
The prosecutor asked for prison sentences of up to 12 months, and demanded a €150 000 fine against the city of Amsterdam and €250 000 for APS.
Hearings are due to take place until July 9, while a ruling is scheduled for July 23.