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IVORY COAST: Toxic dumpers face jail term

September 24th, 2006

SUSPECTS charged in connection with the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, which killed seven people and made thousands ill, could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted, a Justice Ministry official said.

Ten people have been charged under the West African state's toxic waste laws and imprisoned in the main city Abidjan, where the deadly black sludge was discarded at several open-air sites after being unloaded from a tanker.

These include two French executives for Trafigura Beheer BV, a major oil and oil products trader which chartered the vessel, the Probo Koala.

The two men, Trafigura director Claude Dauphin and West Africa manager Jean-Pierre Valentini, face additional charges under the former French colony's poisoning laws.

``For poisoning, it's a sentence of 20 years in prison and for the infraction relating to the toxic waste, it's a sentence of between 15 and 20 years,'' said Aly Yeo, chief of staff to the justice minister.

Thousands suffered vomiting, stomach pains, nausea, breathing difficulties and nosebleeds caused by pungent fumes from the waste, which experts say contained hydrogen sulphide, a chemical which can be deadly in high concentrations.

Trafigura described the substance unloaded from the vessel as slops from the gasoline blend stock cargo it had been carrying and said it contained a mixture of gasoline, water and caustic washings. It said it advised Ivorian authorities that the waste needed to be disposed of correctly and delivered to Abidjan to a local waste disposal firm, Tommy, which it said had government approval to handle the chemical slops.

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