Toxic: Trafigura strikes again

So the last time we looked at Trafigura, and 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 million to the 31,000 victims, Trafigura seemed to have avoided responsibility for the incident.

Not so fast. There has been a veritable blizzard of legal paperwork still whizzing around and now the reason for it has become clear.

The Guardian, at the vanguard of this story (and I highly recommend their chronological coverage here), has been fighting an extraordinary secret injunction against the media put in place by Trafigura’s lawyers Carter-Ruck. (And, given the hardball nature of that particular law firm it is understandable how they became known as Carter-Fuck to Private Eye magazine)

Wigging out

The injunction sought to gag The Guardian from not only releasing a government report on the toxic spill, the Minton Report, but also prevent the newspaper from reporting a question in parliament on the matter. The ban on reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds would have called into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

With the injunction partially lifted, the question could be asked and reported…

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b)press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

All in all it looks like a massive PR blunder by Trafigura. But the Minton Report is still under wraps and its findings are still unable to be reported.

So, what is it in the Minton Report that Carter-Fuck is trying to hide?

And why is Trafigura prepared to risk a massive press and public backlash by attempting to overturn a law that has entitled free speech and the right to report openly on the proceedings of parliament since 1688?

We await the answers to those questions with interest.

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3 Responses

  1. OK, so I’ve waited a week, followed the news, yet still think that this is a splendid PR move on the part of Trafigura and co.

    Oh shit! We’ve dumped toxic waste on these darkies and soon these pesky bleeding hearts are going to take up the cause. What shall we do? Let’s hit ’em liberals with something even more reprehensible (to them) than a polluted Ivory Coast – the Freedom of Speech Act. That way they’ll look the other way long enough and forget eventually.

    Bread and circuses, lessons from Bhopal well learnt.

    • Appallingly, I think it goes back further than Bhopal. In many ways, its just so colonial in its attitude (as you allude to with your “darkies” comment). Its a case of getting away with stuff because its outside the legal boundries of the state you work out of, and then when the shit hits the fan, hide behind the laws of the state you work out of. Bit of a win-win really.

      • Cynical and effective.
        I haven’t seen any articles/blogs about what Trafigura actually did in the Ivory Coast or what “compensation” was offered to victims this week, have you?

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