Toxic waste trial to start in Ivory Coast

Two years after a Dutch-leased ship offloaded more than 500 tonnes of waste, killing 17 people and poisoning thousands of others in Ivory Coast, a trial begins on Monday to judge the affair despite the absence of the boat's operator.


The trial of 12 people charged with involvement in the 2006 toxic waste pollution scandal, which killed 17 people and poisoned thousands of others in the Ivory Coast, is set to start on Monday.

The 12 are charged with "poisoning or complicity to poison" in the illicit dumping of 500 tonnes of caustic soda and petroleum residues across more than a dozen open-air rubbish tips around the commercial capital Abidjan.

The toxic sludge, brought into Ivory Coast by Dutch-based multinational trading company Trafigura, killed 16 people and caused an estimated 95,000 people to seek medical attention.

Among those facing trial is the head of a local company sub-contracted to handle the waste, and the harbour master of Abidjan port.

No employees of Trafigura or its local subsidiary are on trial, however, after Trafigura and Ivory Coast authorities reached an out-of-court settlement in February 2007, in which the Dutch-based company agreed to pay 152 million euros (221 million dollars) in damages.

As of the end of last year, Ivory Coast had paid 31.5 million euros to about half the estimated people poisoned.

The waste was brought into Ivory Coast aboard the Probo Koala, a Panamanian-registered cargo ship operated by Trafigura.

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