One of Trafigura´s most infamous controversies involved an environmental scandal in Ivory Coast. In 2006, Trafigura refined large amounts of coker naptha (unrefined gasoline) aboard the freighter Probo Koala producing more than 500m3 of difficult-to-dispose toxic waste. Unable to find a cost efficient way to dispose of the waste, Trafigura contracted an unlicensed local company that dispersed the waste across several public landfills in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan. Following the incident, fifteen people died and over 100,000 more sought medical treatment for respiratory difficulties, nausea, and other symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic substances. Trafigura was never held criminally liable, but did face other legal consequences including a $195 million settlement to the Ivory Coast and a $45 million settlement for a victims´ class action suit filed in the U.K. A lawsuit was also filed in the Netherlands regarding Trafigura´s illegal trafficking of the waste material. The company has yet to compensate many of the victims affected by the disaster and furthermore has failed to complete clean-up efforts at several dumping sites. Despite these and other hurdles, Trafigura still practices the caustic washing technique that produces this type of waste.
Update February 2015:
Nine years after the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, Trafigura faces a class action suit filed by 100,000 individuals in the Netherlands. In addition to the refunding of the disposal costs, they demand compensation for the bodily, moral and economic injury suffered from the dumping amounting to 2,500 Euro each.1
Amnesty International and Greenpeace Netherlands (2012): The toxic truth. About a company called Trafigura, a ship called the Probo Koala, and the dumping of toxic waste in Côte d´Ivoire.
Roos van Os, Katrin McGauran and Indra Römgens (2013): “Private Gain, Public loss. Mailbox companies, tax avoidance and human rights.