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EU says shipment of waste to Ivory Coast may have been illegal

The European Union said a shipment of waste from the Netherlands that was dumped in the Ivory Coast, allegedly leaving seven people dead and 57,000 seeking medical help, may have been illegal. The oil-products carrier Probo Koala was detained in Estonia yesterday after toxins were found on board. The vessel hired by Dutch commodity trader Trafigura Beheer BV, left the Netherlands on July 5 and arrived August 19 in the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan where waste, known as slops, was dumped. „We have European waste-shipment regulations which ban such export, but apparently the law was broken,” said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, who visited the ship.

„It is shocking toxic waste from Europe reached the Ivory Coast causing so much human suffering,” he said in a statement e-mailed yesterday. The dumping in Abidjan sparked protests that led to the collapse of the African nation's government on September 6. Closely held Trafigura, an Amsterdam-based trader of energy and metals, said company director Claude Dauphin and regional manager Jean-Pierre Valentini were arrested in Abidjan on September 18. „The company's testing of the slops currently on the ship shows that these are non-toxic and very close to ordinary gasoline,” Trafigura said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Trafigura said September 24 the material unloaded in Ivory Coast had „little or no toxicity,” citing tests, and that the company „does not accept it has acted improperly in any way.” The European Court of Justice can impose a „significant” fine on a country for allowing a ship carrying toxins to leave for a destination outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, European Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said today by mobile telephone from Estonia's Paldiski port. (Bloomberg)