Ivorian drivers ask Trafigura for apologies

Press release - September 10, 2010
Two of the Ivorians who transported poisonous waste from oil giant Trafigura in 2006 made several attempts this week to get in touch with the management at the head office in Amsterdam. The men wanted to ask the billion dollar company to apologise for concealing the harmful nature of the waste that they had to transport from the Probo Koala. The waste ended up at numerous locations in and around the capital, Abidjan. According to the Ivorian authorities, sixteen people died from the waste and many tens of thousands of people became ill. The drivers also claim that their health has been damaged by the chemicals they transported. According to Trafigura, the waste has not caused any serious harm.

Doumbia Siaka and Amadou Bakayoko went to the Trafigura head office in Amsterdam twice, both times without success. "We are disappointed that Trafigura didn't want to talk to us", said Bakayoko. "We wanted to put a few questions to the director and ask him to apologise to the people of Ivory Coast and to us for taking the waste to Abidjan."

In the end, an employee at the oil company accepted a letter from the Ivorians to director Claude Dauphin. A PR agency in The Hague representing Trafigura told Greenpeace in an e mail "that the Trafigura Board of Management is not available for phone call with the Ivorian truck drivers". Trafigura was condemned recently for the illegal export of toxic waste.

Siaka and Bakayoko were given the opportunity today for talks with the Dutch Department of Public Prosecutions. "So far, the Public Prosecutor has largely disregarded the events in Ivory Coast", explained Marietta Harjono, Greenpeace's toxics campaigner. "Even though, obviously, the real suffering wasn't here, but in Abidjan. It is important for the Public Prosecutor to do his utmost to instigate proceedings against Trafigura for what happened in Ivory Coast. Environmental crimes committed by Dutch companies, even if they are committed far outside the country, mustn't go unpunished."

During their visit to the Netherlands, Siaka and Bakayoko also talked to the director of the Environment and Building Inspection Department of the city of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam waste processing company Main (the former APS). Both the city authorities and APS played an important role in 2006 in the decision to allow the Probo Koala to sail out of the Amsterdam port. Both were prosecuted for allowing the toxic waste to be pumped back into the Probo Koala, but both the city authorities and APS were acquitted.

Earlier this year, the two Ivorians turned to Greenpeace with their version of the events four years ago and to tell the world what really happened later. Together with other former truck drivers who transported the waste at the time, they claimed that they were never told anything about the harmful nature of the waste. They have also stated that Trafigura lawyers asked them to sign false statements, in exchange for cash, that the waste hadn't made them ill. Greenpeace reported this to the Dutch Department of Public Prosecutions in May this year. Trafigura denies these accusations as well.

As well as reporting the crime, Greenpeace also submitted a complaint to the court in The Hague last year about the failure to prosecute criminal offences. Greenpeace hopes that this will lead to Trafigura being prosecuted for the events in Ivory Coast. (1)

More information:

Marietta Harjono, toxics campaigner, +31 6 1500 74 11
Leon Varitimos, press officer, +31 6 2503 10 12

Photos of Bakayoko and Siaka can be downloaded here (credit: ©Greenpeace/Horneman):

Notes:(1) On 8 September 2010, the court summoned Trafigura to respond to Greenpeace's complaint. The court has arranged the next hearing for 24 November.