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France

Prosecutors target Total subsidiary in fertilizer blast trial

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-25

Prosecutors have requested a maximum fine for a subsidiary of energy giant Total on trial over one of western Europe's worst industrial accidents in recent years. In 2001, an explosion at a Toulouse fertilizer plant killed 31 people.

State prosecution in Toulouse requested on Wednesday a maximum fine of 225,000 euros for Total subsidiary Grande Paroisse over an explosion in 2001 at its AZF plant in Toulouse, southwestern France, that killed 31 people.

 

Patrice Michel, one of the prosecutors in the case, also recommended a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a 45,000-euro fine for the former manager of the chemical fertiliser plant, Serge Biechelin, on trial for manslaughter and involuntary injury.

 

However, French prosecutors recommended oil company Total and former head Thierry Desmarest should not be sentenced over the accident.

 

The gigantic explosion at the AZF plant in September 2001 was one of the worst industrial accidents in western Europe in recent years. As well as 31 dead, more than 2,000 people were injured in the explosion, which damaged 30,000 homes and hundreds of businesses within a radius of about six kilometers.

 

In February, a French court decided Total and Desmarest should appear alongside the subsidiary at the request of lawyers representing around 15 of the victims.

 

Judges have ruled that an accident was the most likely cause of the explosion, and investigators have accused AZF of negligence in stocking volatile ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in its fertilisers.

 

Total has paid 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in compensation but has denied any wrongdoing and said the payout did not in any way constitute an acknowledgement of criminal responsibility.
 

Date created : 2009-06-24

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