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Dutch appeals court upholds fine on oil trading company

The Amsterdam Appeals Court on Friday upheld a 1 million euro (USD $1.3 million) fine against oil trading company Trafigura [corporate website] for shipping hazardous waste to the Netherlands and illegally exporting the waste to the Ivory Coast in 2006. The company chartered a ship, the Probo Koala, to deliver and unload acidic and corrosive fuel refining waste in the Netherlands, but had it pumped back onto the ship due to processing costs. The court acquitted Trafigura of one count of forgery related to the events in 2006, but refused to overturn the company's convictions for illegally exporting waste [WSJ report]. The court also rejected an appeal by Dutch prosecutors to increase the amount of the fine. It was alleged that the waste caused 15 deaths and thousands of individuals to become ill near the Ivory Coast. Human rights group Amnesty International [advocacy website], praised [press release] the court's decision, calling it "an important step towards justice" for those affected.

Trafigura was appealing the July 2010 decision [JURIST report] of the Amsterdam District Court, which originally handed down the fine after finding the company guilty of the charges against it. Lawyers for the company believed Judge Frans Bauduin applied the incorrect treaty [AP report] in finding that exporting the waste to Ivory Coast was illegal, arguing that the Marine Pollution Treaty [MARPOL 73/78 text] applied, under which such exportation was legal. Trafigura paid 152 million euros (USD $196.4 million) to Ivory Coast in 2007 to assist with clean-up efforts and settled a civil suit filed in the UK in 2009 by agreeing to compensate 30,000 Abidjan residents made ill by the waste a total of $1,500 each. The Amsterdam court also found the captain of the Probo Koala guilty of co-delivering the hazardous waste and forgery related to concealing its nature. He was sentenced to a five-month suspended prison term. Trafigura employee Naeem Ahmed was also found guilty of leading the harmful delivery and was sentenced to a 6-month suspended sentence and a fine of 25,000 euros (USD $32,300).

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