Skip to main content

Corporate Murder?

Trafigura is one of the leading oil traders in the world. However, like most oil traders it has hardly been immune from controversy. Over the years, several such companies such as Marc Rich & Co. and Glencore have been accused or implicated in various bribery scandals and the accusation that they assisted Saddam Hussein in avoiding UN sanctions through the so-called "topping-off" scandal.

So far, so unsurprising. Oil trading is a secretive and incredibly lucrative business, and beneath the shadows, rumours of industrial scale corruption have circulated for years. Most of the leading oil producers: Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kazakhstan and now Equatorial Guinea are hardly models of Jeffersonian democracy.

The allegations made against Trafigura are, however, even more vile. Put simply, the allegation is that the company bought partially processed hydrocarbons, highly sulphurous Coker Petrol, and- using an extremely caustic process- they were then able to transform this into usable product. The problem was that this left a highly caustic residue in the bilges of the ship used to transport the product. When an attempt was made to unload this by-product in the Netherlands, it became clear, according to sources in Rotterdam, that the product was so toxic that it would need special handling. That handling would be so expensive as to certainly eliminate the profit obtained from the processing. However, it would also be illegal to export the product outside the European Union.

Nevertheless, the ship next docked in Cote d'Ivoire and what Trafigura describe as "slops" were unloaded in Abidjan, Within a very short period of time a large number of Ivorians reported serious burns, breathing difficulties and indeed several agonising deaths. Over 30,000 Ivorians raised a class action against Trafigura for their injuries.

The case is still sub judice, and Trafigura continues to deny liability. However they have been forced to make ex gratia payments following the publication of internal e-mails that undermine a substantial proportion of Trafigura's case.

The legal case will need to be completed, but to my mind this is not simply a matter for the civil courts. If it is proven that Trafigura knowingly dumped this toxic waste in Cote d'Ivoire, then this is a case of murder.

The company should, in my view, face a criminal investigation. If Nick Leeson could go to gaol for securities fraud, it seems to me that those responsible for this horrific incident should face criminal prosecution. If it becomes clear that the whole culture of the company itself is implicated, then the company should be liquidated and such wealth as remains should be placed in a trust fund to support the horribly burned, blinded, widowed, orphaned and wholly innocent people of Abidjan who were caught up in a crime.

In other news: Conservative Front bencher, Lord Strathclyde resigned from the board of Trafigura yesterday. As a member of the board he may be reflecting upon his actions over the years since this scandal first occurred.

Unrelated information: Rt. Hon. Alan Duncan MP, another Conservative front bencher, made his fortune as an oil trader, first with Solomon Brothers and later with Marc Rich & Co.

Mr. Marc Rich was convicted and subsequently controversially pardoned by President Clinton for his role in bribery and illegal dealings with the regime of Iran.


Anonymous said…
Marc Rich was indicted but he was never convicted. He fled the US before there was a trial.
Cicero said…
I don't see that that makes a jot of difference: It still took a Presidential pardon to clarify his position. You don't need a pardon if you are innocent.

Popular posts from this blog

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …