A Dutch court on Friday upheld a million-euro fine against Trafigura for illegally exporting chemical waste to Ivory Coast, where it was dumped in the open and blamed by residents for making them ill.
In 2006, Dutch-incorporated commodities trader Trafigura Beheer BV had decided against asking Amsterdam Port Services (APS) to clean up chemical slops carried by the ship Probo Koala when the costs turned out to be more than expected.
The court finds it has been proven Trafigura concealed the waste's harmful nature when handing it over to APS, and, when APS returned the waste, that Trafigura illegally exported the waste to Ivory Coast, an Amsterdam-based court said in a statement.
The Amsterdam court upheld the million-euro fine handed out by a lower court last year, a ruling against which Trafigura and Dutch prosecutors had appealed.
The court however upheld the lower court's acquittal of Trafigura of charges of forging documents when reporting about the waste in Amsterdam port.
Trafigura is satisfied that the acquittal was upheld but is obviously disappointed that they were not completely cleared. They continue to believe that they acted properly and used the correct procedures, Trafigura spokeswoman Margaret van Kempen said.
When asked if the company would appeal, she said Trafigura, one of the world's biggest oil and metals traders with 2010 sales of $79.2 billion, would study the verdict.
Trafigura, which has made settlements to prevent or end court proceedings in Ivory Coast and Britain, had chartered the Probo Koala and originally planned to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of chemical slops in Amsterdam in July 2006.
About a month later, the material was dumped in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan after Trafigura hired a local company to dispose of the waste.
Thousands of residents of the city complained of illnesses, and the government of Ivory Coast said 16 people died.
A Dutch judge said last year the waste was harmful, caustic and could hurt the skin, while a British judge said in 2009 there was no evidence it had caused anything more than flu-like symptoms.
Trafigura agreed in 2007 to pay a $198 million settlement to the Ivory Coast government which exempted it from legal proceedings in the West African country, but it denied responsibility for the dumping or any wrongdoing.
The company also reached a pre-trial settlement in 2009 with a British law firm which represented 31,000 residents of Ivory Coast.
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; editing by Andrew Roche)