Trafigura execs released after Ivory Coast deal

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Two executives from Dutch-based oil trader Trafigura were released from prison in Ivory Coast on Wednesday following the settlement of a dispute over the dumping of toxic waste, the company said.

Trafigura’s director, Claude Dauphin, and its West African regional director had been held in Abidjan’s prison since September on charges relating to the dumping, which killed at least 10 people and poisoned thousands.

The two executives traveled to Ivory Coast after poisonous black sludge was dumped in open-air sites around the economic capital Abidjan last August after being unloaded from a Trafigura-chartered tanker.

They said they were there to help with the investigation into the dumping but were arrested by Ivorian authorities.

“We went to Ivory Coast on a mission to help the people of Abidjan, and to find ourselves arrested in jail as a result has been a terrible ordeal,” Dauphin said in a statement.

A third executive, from Trafigura subsidiary Puma Energy, was also released, the company said.

Thousands of people sought medical attention for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and breathing difficulties after exposure to fumes from the waste.

Trafigura said on Tuesday it would pay a 100 billion CFA franc ($198 million) settlement to Ivory Coast, much of which will be used to reimburse costs the state incurred for removing the waste and treating those affected.

Neither Trafigura nor the Ivory Coast government accept any liability for August’s events, the company has said.

Trafigura says it entrusted the waste to a state-registered Ivorian company, Tommy, which was set up shortly before the tanker which it chartered, the Panamanian-registered Probo Koala, arrived in Abidjan.

A British court agreed earlier this month to hear a class action case brought against Trafigura by law firm Leigh Day & Co which is seeking cash compensation for what it estimates are around 4,000-5,000 people who were injured by the waste.

Trafigura has said it plans to fund an independent environmental audit in Abidjan, encompassing the role of the parties involved and the impact on the local community.