Trafigura’s troubles

By Alex Stevenson

Global trading business Trafigura’s settlement over allegations of toxic waste dumping is a major blow to the company’s reputation. But this is only one of several cases which have seen its behaviour come under scrutiny. summarises some of the biggest controversies Trafigura has faced since it began business in 1993.

Oil-for-food scandal

The programme, set up by the United Nations to allow Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for aid, was undermined by claims of corruption. Trafigura Beheer BV had chartered the Essex, a tanker permitted to load Iraqi crude oil. It was subsequently claimed it added extra crude oil and the Essex was intercepted by the US Navy. Trafigura took legal action against Ibex for having misled them about the deal.

Toxic waste dumping

Over 30,000 people were represented in a major class action against Trafigura, which today agreed to pay millions of pounds in settlement. It ran into trouble after documents emerged showing it knew dumped ‘slops’ which were subsequently linked to mass health problems in the Ivory Coast were toxic.

Trafigura has strenuously defended its reputation. It forced the Times newspaper to print a correction earlier this month clarifying it had always disputed “that the dumping caused, or could have caused, the deaths and serious injuries referred to”. The Times took the correction down today.

Jamaica suspicions

The general secretary of Jamaica’s People’s National party was forced to quit when a payment by Trafigura to the Caribbean country’s ruling party was revealed by a whistleblower. Trafigura had been allowed to keep the profits on Nigerian oil which Jamaica had the rights to. It denied bribing public officials.

Chemical explosion

On May 24th 2007 an explosion rocked Slovag, Norway. Chemical waste which a firm called Vest Tank had been attempting to dispose the low-quality coker gasoline, on behalf of the owners of the waste – Trafigura, when the explosion happened.