The impression has no doubt been given that the whole Trafigura/Carter-Ruck affair has centred around the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. But identical waste was shipped to Norway that year too:
Oil-trader Trafigura is under police investigation in Norway, accused of illegal import of waste. The waste was brought to Norway on the Probo Emu in 2006, and is identical to the waste that Trafigura shipped to the Ivory Coast on the Probo Koala.
The Norwegian police have been investigating Trafigura for more than a year and a half, but so far nobody in the company has been willing to give statement or answer questions from the Norwegian police.
– We are surprised, and have the impression that Trafigura is not interested in assisting in the investigation, says Hans Tore Høviskeland, head of prosecution in Økokrim.
It’s not just allegations of the illegal import of identical waste. Because of a ‘blunder’ by Trafigura’s subcontractor Vest Tank, similar waste from on-shore caustic washing exploded, with severe consequences:
Trafigura, the British oil trading giant which agreed to pay £30m to the victims of one of Africa’s worst pollution disasters, has failed to co-operate with an investigation into an explosion in a Norwegian fjord involving waste from one of its ships, The Independent can reveal.
Hundreds of residents of the Norwegian village of Slovag fell ill in May 2007 when a huge tank holding waste from low-quality oil processed on behalf of Trafigura caught fire and exploded, leading to one of the worst pollution incidents in Norway’s history as a cloud of sulphurous smoke rose over the surrounding area.
A prosecution of three individuals linked to Vest Tank, the Norwegian company which ran the processing operation on Norway’s west coast, is due to begin in November and will hear evidence of how Trafigura sent six shipments totalling 150,000 tonnes of cheap and dirty coker gasoline to Slovag in 2006 and 2007.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) report that Trafigura have so far refused to answer why they chose to perform caustic washing in Sløvåg, when it’s illegal in the EU (which Norway is not a member state of). They also have refused to answer why the Probo Emu failed to apply for import permits for the earlier waste, and failed to notify Norwegian environmental authorities of its arrival.
So before you start believing their backtracking from the legal mess they’re responsible for in the UK, with their super injunctions, crude attacks on parliament and the freedom of speech, consider where their responsibility for both disasters lay. The Norwegian authorities claim Vest Tank didn’t even have the correct permits to carry out caustic washing and waste processing, which Vest Tank deny - it’s all remarkably similar to the situation in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where Trafigura have also denied any responsibility for their subcontractor there dumping the identically toxic waste in populated areas. Solomon Ugburogbu’s company Tommy didn’t even have the facilities for treating the toxic waste which ended up dumped instead.
In both instances Trafigura bought extremely cheap, low grade refinery gasoline at a profit, and turned this coker naptha as cheaply as they could through a process called caustic washing, into a petrol which wasn’t even legal to sell in the EU, in order to sell it on to Africa (where it was legal) at a further profit. The toxic waste resulting from the earlier caustic washing at sea ended up dumped in Abidjan; in the case of Sløvåg it appears to have been illegally imported, although caustic washing was done on land there as well. Trafigura knew when they tried to offload the waste which ended up in Abidjan in Amsterdam, how expensive it would be to treat the sludge legally, yet its final destination was Tommy. In Sløvåg the sludge blew up, even though Trafigura knew of the dangers of storing it for more than a few days. Deaths in Abidjan and serious health problems in Norway – Trafigura at the centre of it, making huge profits. Pierre Lorinet, the oil trading firm’s CFO said:
“We decided that our best course of action at the time was to get the [initial, super-] injunction, because we didn’t want more inaccurate reporting on things which are very clearly wrong effectively. It is a heavy-handed approach, absolutely. With hindsight, could it have been done differently? Possibly. The injunction was never intended to gag parliament or attack free speech.”
They never wanted to gag parliament or attack free speech, just wanted to stop ‘inaccurate reporting’? Given the mountain of evidence underpinning said reporting, make your own mind up, and make sure you read the Minton Report. The Basel Convention bans the export of toxic waste to developing countries – it’s no wonder Trafigura have stopped at nothing to suppress even a mention of it.