Toxic Trade News / 10 September 2006
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As UN Checks Toxins in Abidjan, the Dumper Trafigura Figured in Oil for Food Scandal, Funded by RBS and BNP Paribas
by Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press at the UN
10 September 2006 (United Nations) – While in Ivory Coast the dumping of toxic chemicals by Trafigura Beheer BV has led to a new political crisis, it has emerged that the dumper Trafigura figured in the UN - Iraq Oil for Food scandal, alongside mining operations in Kazakhstan, derivatives and loans from such mega-banks as Royal Bank of Scotland, ING and BNP Paribas. The toxins were dealt out in at least nine places around the port of Abidjan, leaving five dead and over 7000 in need of medical treatment. How far the liability and accountability will spread is not yet known.

Before the UN Environment Program sent investigators to Abidjan, at UN Headquarters on September 7, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the UN's position and actions to date on the spill. The spokesman responded that:

"On this specific issue, the Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny, spoke to Mr. Guehenno today, to brief him on the dissolution of the Government. He told them the decision was made to ensure that all those who have a hand in what happened in the dump of the toxic waste, take full responsibility and are removed from Government jobs. We obviously acknowledge the decision. I think it is always good when people take responsibility for these sorts of things."

Even cursory research finds the dumper, Trafigura Beheer BV, listed in various reports on the UN's Oil for Food program. Facts on File reports that:

"in May 2001, the Essex tanker, chartered by Dutch oil-trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, had been topped off with an extra 230,000 barrels after inspection at an off-shore Iraqi oil platform. Trafigura had purchased the oil in the shipment from French oil-services company Ibex Energy France. The cargo had been seized in the Caribbean Sea after the captain alerted U.S. and U.N. authorities. Later, according to the Journal, Ibex's general manager, Jean Paul Cayre, in an affidavit filed with Britain's High Court of Justice, had said the two companies performed the same routine with the Essex in 2000, under Trafigura's direction, paying Iraq $5.4 million for the extra oil. At Trafigura's direction, Cayre said, the two companies had shredded records of the deals and replaced them with false ones."

Documents tie French President Jacques Chirac's friend Patrick Maugein to the 25 million barrels allocated to Trafigura Beheer BV, which employed Patrick's brother Philippe as a consultant. Trafigura was accused of evading taxes on oil imports into Thailand; the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has taken testimony on Trafigura's involving in the Sudanese oil industry.

Public reporting on Trafigura comes even closer to the current UN. The Financial Times' Claudio Gatti one year ago reported:

"Kojo Annan, son of Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, received more than Dollars 750,000 from several oil trading companies now under investigation for their role in the UN's oil-for-food program (OFFP) for Iraq. The funds were dispatched between 2002 and 2003 to an account Kojo Annan opened under his middle name - Adeyemo - in a Swiss branch of Coutts bank... In 2003, one company - Trafigura Beheer BV, a Dutch-based entity founded by traders who formerly worked for the then fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich - sent $247,500 to Kojo Annan's account at Coutts... The company found records of the payment in question, but explained that it was related to a transaction with PPI, the Nigerian company that employed Mr Annan as a director. 'The request (of payment) was received from a PPI fax and it was assumed that this was a PPI account.' Mr. Annan's lawyer said PPI 'conducted business with Trafigura in 2002 and 2003' clarifying the deals were confined to Nigerian gas oil and petrol. PPI's representative in Geneva is Michael Wilson, a Ghanaian friend of the Annan family, who has attracted scrutiny in the oil-for-food investigation. Mr Wilson and Mr Annan both worked for Cotecna, the Swiss inspection company that in 1998 received a UN contract under the oil-for-food program ultimately worth $60 million. Between spring 2002 and spring 2003, Mr Annan's Coutts account received over $200,000."

Control of Coutts lay with Royal Bank of Scotland. As research into who funds and enables Trafigua continues, earlier this year Euromoney reported "BNP Paribas, ING and Royal Bank of Scotland's $300 million facility for commodity trading group Trafigura Beheer has closed."

On Friday the UN said it is sending the UN Environment Program to investigate the toxic dumping in Abidjan. But the trail is not without self-reference, and leads well beyond the Ivory Coast. Bigger picture, Reuters reports that "countries that report to the Basel Convention, which monitors hazardous waste, produced around 108 million tonnes of the wastes in 2001, according to U.N. statistics. Uzbekistan was top with 26 percent of the total."

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