Type Privately held company
Industry Raw materials / Merchant
Founded 1993
Headquarters Flag of Switzerland.svg Lucerne, Switzerland
Revenue US $73 billion (2008)[1]
Net income US$440 million[2]
Employees 1900[1]

Trafigura is a London-based[3] multinational company founded in 1993 trading in base metals and energy, including oil.

As of 2008 the company had equity of more than $2 billion and a turnover of $73 billion that generated $440 million of profit.[2]

It operates from 55 offices in 36 countries in Europe and North America, Central America, and South America, as well as in the Middle and Far East. It is the world's third largest private oil and metals trader after Vitol and Glencore.[2]

Trafigura was set up by Claude Dauphin and Eric de Turckheim. It split off from a group of companies managed by Marc Rich in 1993.[2][4] Trafigura has been named or involved in several scandals since its creation.


[edit] Oil-for-food scandal

The company was named in the Iraq Oil-for-Food Scandal in connection with the Essex, a Liberian registered "turbine-tanker" that had UN approval to load Iraqi crude at Iraq–s main export terminal at Mina al-Bakr. The tanker was chartered by Trafigura Beheer BV and according to its captain, Theofanis Chiladakis, the Essex was at least twice 'topped off' with an extra 272,000 barrels of crude after UN monitors had signed off the cargo.[5] This was on May 13 and August 27, 2001. Elf-Aquitaine employees had first talked about this scheme in February 1998.[6]

A Trafigura subsidiary called Roundhead, Inc. had bought the oil from a subsidiary of the French oil trader, Ibex Energy and claimed it paid Ibex a "premium" of 40 cents per barrel over the official United Nations selling price. In early October 2001, U.S. warships intercepted the Essex off the coast of Curacao before it could offload its illegal cargo. This resulted in more than US$5 million in additional shipping costs for Trafigura, and led them to sue Ibex in a London court for having misled them. But Ibex managing director Jean-Paul Cayre claimed in an affidavit that Trafigura had cooked up the scheme to "make up for an earlier loss on an Iraqi oil deal that fell through in 1999."

[edit] Waste dumping in Cte d'Ivoire

On July 2, 2006, the Probo Koala, a ship leased by the company, entered a port in Amsterdam to unload several hundred tons of toxic waste.[7] Amsterdam Port Services BV, the company that had been contracted to take the waste, raised their price to process the waste 20-fold soon after determining the waste was more toxic than previously understood. So, after balking at a competitor's 1000 euro per cubic metre disposal charge near Amsterdam, Trafigura decided to have the ship take back the waste and have it processed en route to different dumping sites, which all refused it until Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire, one of Africa's largest seaports. According to Trafigura the waste was then handed over[8] to a local newly formed dumping company, Compagnie Tommy, which illegally dumped the waste instead of processing it. Many people there became sick due to exposure to the waste, and investigations were begun to determine whether it was intentionally dumped by Trafigura. Trafigura stated in a press statement that their tests showed the waste not to be as toxic as had been claimed, and that they were unsure why so many people had become ill from exposure to it.[9]

The New York Times reported on October 3, 2006 that the dumping of the waste by Compagnie Tommy was indeed illegal.

On February 13, 2007, to release its jailed executives in response to the deaths of ten people and the various illnesses of over 100,000 people attributed to the waste, Trafigura paid –152 million to Cte d'Ivoire in compensation. The payment also exonerated Trafigura from further legal proceedings in Cte d'Ivoire.

On February 19, 2007, Cte d'Ivoire attributed the deaths of 5 more people to the waste dump, raising the total to 15.[10] The Guardian newspaper later wrote that "Official local autopsy reports on 12 alleged victims appeared to show fatal levels of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, one of the waste's lethal byproducts."[11]

In May 2007, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the press officer of Trafigura, operating under the username Press Office T NL, attempted to alter the Dutch Wikipedia article "Probo Koala" on three separate occasions, with intent to clear the company's name. The article was then temporarily locked by Wikipedia administrators so that it could not be modified.[12]

[edit] 2009

In May 2009, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that it had obtained conclusive proof that the company had released toxic waste in Cte d'Ivoire.[13] The BBC News programme Newsnight also reported in May that the dumping of waste in Cte d'Ivoire had led to deaths and serious health consequences. Trafigura denied this and attempted to sue the programme for libel.[14]

In August 2009, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported that Trafigura Beheer and its lawyers sued the Dutch government in order to keep a document of the Dutch National Forensics Institute (NFI) secret. This document had been given to the lawyers of the victims of Ivory Coast toxic waste. Trafigura wants this decision to be reverted on the basis that the victims are not a party to the Dutch case under Dutch law, and claim it would do them irreparable damage if published. The contents of the document are, according to the newspaper, not challenged by Trafigura. The newspaper stated that the NFI determined that the contents of the tanker had been 528,000 litres of extremely alkaline waste constituting 6.8% sulfur, for 3.5% alkyl-thiols and 0.5% hydrogen sulfide.[15]

According to a September 2009 UN report, posted by Wikileaks,[16] the dumping drove 108,000 people in the Ivory Coast to seek medical attention.

On September 4, 2009, the court decided that the prosecutor should not have given the documents to Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers of the victims, because there was no direct relation between the environmental crime that Trafigura was a suspect of in The Netherlands and for which the samples were taken and analyzed, and the dumping in the Ivory Coast. It might be possible that the lawyers of the litigants could receive the documents, but for this a different procedure would need to be followed. The Dutch government was required to demand the return of the documents, and require that Leigh Day not make use of the documents in the civil case in the United Kingdom.[17]

On September 16, 2009, a BBC Newsnight broadcast claimed to have uncovered evidence revealing that oil-trading company Trafigura knew that waste dumped in Ivory Coast in 2006 was hazardous.[18] The Independent published a story about the dumping of the waste on September 17, but later removed the story from their website. The story in question has been archived on Wikileaks.[19]

On December 12, 2009 the BBC removed its online video of Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean's report on Newsnight on 13 May, and also deleted the associated BBC News online article. Their action was presumed to be a response to a demand by Trafigura's lawyers in their ongoing libel action. Bloggers responded by reposting the video on YouTube and linking to it.[20] Subsequently Wikileaks has published the defence the BBC prepared against the libel suit brought by Trafigura[21] and Richard Wilson and Calum Carr have published the Court File containing Trafigura–s reply.[22][23]

On December 17 2009, the BBC withdrew the allegations it made during the May 2009 Newsnight broadcast, acknowledging that the allegations were incorrect.[24]

Later that day, the BBC broadcast an apology to Trafigura on Newsnight.[25]

[edit] Superinjunction

On October 12, 2009 The Guardian newspaper reported that it had been prevented by a legal injunction applied for by London libel lawyers Carter Ruck (the name of the legal firm being the only fact the Guardian were free to report in the case) from covering remarks made in Parliament. It complied with this injunction and neither named the questioner nor published the question.[26] The Guido Fawkes political blog identified the blocked question as likely to be linked to the Trafigura waste dumping case.[27] The Spectator also speculated that the gagging order involved Trafigura and noted that Trafigura became a 'trending topic' on Twitter with the story shared and distributed through numerous weblinks.[28][29] The Guardian confirmed that Trafigura was the source of the gagging order, after the order was lifted the next day.[30] The question that they were unable to report was from Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.[31]

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation have published the report in question and a copy of the gagging order against The Guardian on their website.[32][33]

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian described the injunction as "a fantastic own goal".[34] According to a press release on the website of the lawyers acting for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, the reason that The Guardian could not report the question asked by Paul Farrelly was because a gagging order has been in place since 11 September 2009, before the MP asked the question. They also stated that it had never been their intention to prevent the press reporting on Parliament and that they had since agreed on changes with The Guardian to the gagging order so that they could report on the issue.[35]

On the evening of 16 October 2009, it was reported that the injunction had been lifted and the report published.[36]

[edit] The debate in parliament

Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, secured a Westminster Hall debate on the gagging, conducted on 21 October 2009. A partner in Carter Ruck, Adam Tudor, wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, claiming that the matter was sub judice, but the debate did take place.[37] During the debate, Denis MacShane asked "do we not need to see the partners of Carter-Ruck brought before the bar of the House to apologise publicly for this attempt to suborn parliamentary democracy?" Evan Harris drew the government's attention to the fact that although the injunction has now been dropped Carter Ruck is continuing with a libel action by Trafigura against BBC Newsnight "Newsnight is being threatened by the lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, if it repeats an allegation against Carter-Ruck that deaths were caused by the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, even though in 2007 Hansard reported the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations laid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before Parliament, and a memorandum of explanation to those regulations stated: 'The recent example of the release of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast leading to the deaths of a number of people and the hospitalisation of thousands underlines the risks involved in the movement and management of waste.' How can it be that that can be in Hansard, yet there are still threats of legal action against Newsnight?" As the debate was winding up, Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister, said that the government is concerned about the over-use of super-injunctions. She will consider whether further guidelines need to be issued to the judiciary, and she stressed that the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, which allows the proceedings of Parliament to be reported without interference, is still in force. In the debate, Peter Bottomley read the URL of the report in Parliament to make sure it was in the public domain.[38] On 27 May 2010, the UK's only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, used her maiden speech in the House of Commons to question ongoing media restrictions surrounding Trafigura.[39]

[edit] Chemical explosion in Norway

On May 24, 2007 an explosion occurred in Slvg Gulen, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway in a tank owned by Vest Tank, it had severe environmental and health consequences for people living nearby. In 2008 the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation published the 50 min documentary "Dirty Cargo" disclosing what had happened in the small community prior to the explosion. The company Vest Tank was trying to neutralize the same kind of chemical waste that was dumped in Cte d'Ivoire when the explosion occurred. The owner of the waste was Trafigura, on whose behalf Vest Tank was working.[40][41][42] In October 2006 Trafigura sent the Probo Emu, sister ship of the Probo Koala, to Norway with identical toxic caustic waste onboard to that which had been dumped in Cte d'Ivoire. The Probo Emu traveled from Gibraltar to Norway to deliver the waste, and on shore in Norway representatives from Trafigura and the company Minton Treharne & Davies were present to oversee the discharge.

At the end of 2005 Trafigura bought a product from Pemex, called coker gasoline or coker naphtha. The oil product had been stored in the refinery town of Cadereyta for 30 months as Pemex lacked refinery capacity to process the low quality product. The oil product was trucked across the border into the USA and pumped into shore tanks at the company Transmontaigne in Brownsville. The EPA in the US is investigating this operation.

From Brownsville it was shipped out and six shiploads of approximately 150 000 mt was sent to Norway for caustic cleaning. In Slvg the coker gasoline was pumped ashore, caustic soda and the catalyst ARI100 was added. After this process in Slvg, five of the six ships headed for the seaport town of Paldiski in Estonia.

In Paldiski, they discharged their cargoes at the terminal of the oil company Alexela, a company partly owned by Trafigura. Incidentally, Alexela bought up Vest Tank in Slvg after the explosion. In Paldiski, the cargo was unloaded, and the Estonian customs service relate that a substance designed to increase the octane level is mixed into the gasoline. The unusable residue product coker gasoline had now turned into low quality gasoline.

The Estonian customs stated that the quality was so low that it rendered the product illegal for sale in Europe. The gasoline was reloaded on board a ship, then dispatched to West Africa. In Europe, the maximum approved sulphur level in gasoline is 50 ppm. In West Africa, 5000 ppm is the approved limit.

These were the main activities Vest Tank had established in Slvg. Consequently, the sweetening of coker gasoline generated a steady flow of hazardous waste, and in addition, the tank facility accepted waste for processing.

The ship Ottavia, loaded cargo in Slvg. When she arrived, she was nearly fully loaded with high quality gasoline purchased by Trafigura from ConocoPhillips in England. In Slvg, she collected 5400 tons of waste residue from the process of desulphurization of coker gasoline. Documents prove that this waste was mixed with the high quality gasoline on board. Subsequently, Ottavia sailed for West Africa.

[edit] Daniel Pearl Award

On April 24, 2010 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists presented the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting to the team of journalists who had revealed the Trafigura story. The award went to the British journalists Meirion Jones and Liz Mackean from BBC Newsnight and David Leigh from the Guardian, Synnove Bakke and Kjersti Knudsson from Norwegian TV, and Jeroen Trommelen from the Dutch paper de Volkskrant. The citation says the award was for reports "which exposed how a powerful offshore oil trader tried to cover up the poisoning of 30,000 West Africans". [43]

[edit] Structure

Some of Trafigura's major international units include:

  • Trafigura Beheer BV, based in the Netherlands
  • Trafigura AG, is the main office, based in Lucerne, Switzerland, also deals with business in the United States.
  • Trafigura Pte Ltd runs the Group–s petroleum trading in the Far East.
  • Puma Group of Companies which operate the Group–s worldwide oil storage and distribution assets and investments.
  • Galena Asset Management, based in London and FSA registered, is the subsidiary through which Trafigura has established and manages a fund management business. Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords, is a non-executive director on the board, although he has stated his intent to stand down from this post.[44]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b "Trafigura Corporate Brochure" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d Leigh, David (16 September 2009). "Inside Trafigura: Accusations, sour deals and friends in high places". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  3. ^ Rob Evans (23 July 2010). "Trafigura fined –1m for exporting toxic waste to Africa". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Ammann, Daniel (2009). The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. New York: St. Martin–s Press. ISBN 0-312-57074-0. 
  5. ^ Kuchinsky, Valery (2001-12-31). "Letter from the Acting Chairman of the Security Council Committee (sic) concerning the situation between Iraq and Kuwait" (in en) (PDF). United Nations, New York, USA: United Nations Security Council. p. 26. Retrieved 2010-07-25. "Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to take the same measure with regard to the company Trafigura Beheer B.V. On 23 November, the Office of the Iraq Programme provided the Committee with proposals for additional operating procedures for crude oil monitoring." 
  6. ^ Hoyos, Carola (2005-10-28). "Big oil groups implicated in oil-for-food scandal". Financial Times. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  7. ^ Polgreen, Lydia; Marlise Simons (2006-10-01). "Global Sludge Ends in Tragedy for Ivory Coast". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  8. ^ Probo Koala Updates
  9. ^ "Trafigura Tests Contradict Media Speculation". Trafigura. 2006-09-24. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  10. ^ "Death toll from ICoast pollution rises to 15". Reuters. 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  11. ^ Leigh, David (2009-09-16). "How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  12. ^ "Tot drie keer toe is het lemma over het gifschip Probo Koala veranderd. Tevergeefs.". ANP. 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  13. ^ Leigh, David (2009-05-19). "Papers prove Trafigura ship dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  14. ^ Leigh, David (16 May 2009). "Newsnight sued over toxic waste claims". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  15. ^ "Trafigura: OM moet rapport geheimhouden". Volkskrant. 2009-08-24. 
  16. ^ "The BBC deletes important story on toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast after legal threats". Wikileaks. 2009-12-12. http://www.wikileaks.org 
  17. ^ "Text of the ruling in case Trafigura Beheer B.V. vs the Netherlands (LJN: BJ6977, Rechtbank's-Gravenhage , 341048 / KG ZA 09-830)". 2009-00-05. 
  18. ^ "Trafigura knew of waste dangers". BBC. 2009-09-16. 
  19. ^ "Toxic Shame: Thousands injured in African City". Wikileaks (The Independent). 2009-09-17. http://www.wikileaks.org Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  20. ^ George Eaton (15 December 2009). "Trafigura story disappears from BBC website". New Statesman. 
  21. ^ "BBC High Court Defence against Trafigura libel suit, 11 Sep 2009". WikiLeaks. 2009-09-11. http://wikileaks.org,_11_Sep_2009. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Posted by CalumCarr (2010-03-23). "CalumCarr on Whatever: Trafigura Reply in BBC Libel Now Available". Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  24. ^ "Newsnight - Trafigura v BBC: Statement in open court". BBC News. 2009-12-17. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  25. ^ –– (2009-12-19). "BBC Newsnight apology to Trafigura - high quality". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  26. ^ Leigh, David (2009-10-12). "Guardian gagged from reporting Parliament". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  27. ^ "Guardian gagged from reporting Parliament". Order Order. 2009-10-12. 
  28. ^ Massie, Alex (13 October 2009). "British Press Banned from Reporting Parliament. Seriously.". The Spectator. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  29. ^ "Twitter Can't Be Gagged". Guardian Online (London). 2009-10-13. Retrieved October 13, 2009. 
  30. ^ Leigh, David (2009-10-13). "Gag on Guardian reporting MP's Trafigura question lifted". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  31. ^ David Leigh "Gag on Guardian reporting MP's Trafigura question lifted", The Guardian, 13 October 2009
  32. ^ "Minton Report dated September 2006 detailing the composition of the dumped slops" (PDF).!Minton.pdf. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  33. ^ "High Court ruling against The Guardian dated 11 September 2009" (PDF).!The_Guardian_kjennelse.pdf. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  34. ^ "Alan Rusbridger: As a way of handling PR it was a fantastic own goal". London: The Guardian. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  35. ^ "Press Release by Carter-Ruck on behalf of Trafigura Limited and Trafigura Beheer BV". 13 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  36. ^ Beckford, Martin; Watt, Holly (2009-10-16). "Secret Trafigura report said 'likely cause' of illness was release of toxic gas from dumped waste". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  37. ^ Leigh, David (16 October 2009). "Carter-Ruck in new move to stop debate in parliament". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  38. ^ "English Libel Law - Westminster Hall Debate". 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  39. ^ "Caroline Lucas: I will keep the spotlight on Trafigura - UK Politics, UK". The Independent. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  40. ^ "Vest Tank sweetened coker gasoline". NRK. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  41. ^ "A small pawn in the game". NRK. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  42. ^ "Coker gasoline – low quality". NRK. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  43. ^ USA (2010-04-24). "ICIJ Names Winners of 2010 Daniel Pearl Awards for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting - The Center for Public Integrity". Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  44. ^ David Leigh and Rob Evans, "Lord Strathclyde severs links with oil trader Trafigura after waste scandal", The Guardian, 17 September 2009.

[edit] Literature

Ammann, Daniel (2009). The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. New York: St. Martin–s Press. ISBN 0-312-57074-0. 

[edit] External links

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