Toxic: A Trafigura update

As regular readers will recall, we took a look at the oil trading firm Trafigura a while ago, in the post – Toxic: A 21st Century Bhopal.

Comparing the dumping of toxic sludge in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (2006) with the deadly gas release in Bhopal (1984), we wondered whether modern environmental sensibilities would mean a large, politically connected, company would be held to a higher standard of post-disaster behaviour. We also decided, given the large amounts of money and lawyers at their disposal, Trafigura were just as likely as Union Carbide had been 25 years ago to fight any compensation settlement tooth and nail.

Well fight they did… and here is the outcome.

Warning - Contact with Lawyers may cause sickness

Warning - Contact with lawyer may cause sickness

The High Court proceedings were due to start 3 days ago but, instead, Trafigura have just reached an out-of-court settlement in London, where they will pay £30 million to the 31,000 claimants. This is in addition to the, approximately, £140 million Trafigura had already forked out to the Ivory Coast government on the condition that the company become exempt from prosecution in that country.

Sounds like an admission of guilt, right?

Well, no actually. As part of the settlement, the victim’s lawyers have had to concede…

“…that there is no link between exposure to the waste and any deaths or miscarriages, as was alleged”

Furthermore, Trafigura’s lawyers expect each victim to sign a declaration to the effect that…

“…the waste didn’t cause any (serious) casualties and that there were just a few superficial injuries”

Trafigura has subsequently been threatening any media challenge to their sanitised version of the incident with libel action (here is a pdf of their lawyer’s letter to The Guardian).

In another legal blast, this time to Newsnight (seen here), Trafigura lay out their legal claim, explicitly explaining how, on one hand the sludge couldn’t have caused any injuries and, on the other, how if it did, they were minor. A case, perhaps, of wanting to have your shit-covered cake and eat it too.

The last line in The Guardian letter is particularly priceless.

Trafigura believes that the settlement was the best way for the people of Abidjan, the Ivorian government and Trafigura to move forward

To the lawyer/author of this patently absurd attempt at dressing Trafigura’s hand washing as the philanthropic gift of a benevolent donor… congratulations.

You are the winner of this month’s Golden Turd™ award.

The prestigious Golden Turd™

2 Responses

  1. Regarding that last line from Trafigura in the Guardian, alarm bells go off when I hear or read that expression “to move forward.”

    How often have we heard it from governments and big businesses in the last few years as a way of avoiding their past responsibilities and, yes, their guilt.

  2. […] the legal firefight over responsibility for the toxic spill in Ivory Coast, we noted (in this post Toxic: A Trafigura update) that the oil trading giant had appeared to have wiggled off the hook. Having dished out £30 […]

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