Page last updated at 04:02 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 05:02 UK

Two jailed over Ivorian pollution

Women carrying firewood on the heads
Residents near the contaminated site have no choice but to stay

A court in Ivory Coast has sentenced two people to 20 years and five years in jail for dumping hundreds of tonnes of toxic waste in Abidjan in 2006.

Seven others were acquitted. The Dutch company that shipped the waste paid a $200m (£108m) out-of-court settlement relating to civil claims in 2007.

The company, Trafigura, never admitted liability, saying the payment was made out of sympathy for the Ivorian people.

Seventeen people died and thousands suffered breathing problems and nausea.

The Dutch multi-national firm chartered the ship carrying the waste, which was unloaded in Ivory Coast, after a failure to agree deals to get it treated in the Netherlands.

It said it had contracted a local firm, Tommy, to handle the waste in good faith.

'Fatal deal'

More than 500 tonnes of toxic waste on a Panama-registered cargo ship, the Probo Koala, were then dumped at 15 public locations across Abidjan.

Contaminated earth collected into giant bags
Much of the chemical waste still remains in Abidjan

The court sentenced the head of Tommy, Nigerian national Salomon Ugborugbo, to 20 years in jail.

Ivorian prosecutors had been seeking a life sentence for the crime.

Essoin Kouao, who worked as a shipping agent at the Port of Abidjan and had recommended Tommy to the Dutch company Trafigura, received a five-year prison term.

He was found guilty of complicity in the poisoning.

The Ivory Coast attorney general, Damou Kouyate, said "a wild quest for money" had led those involved to set up the "fatal deal".

In March 2008, the Ivorian Court of Appeal ruled that there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against Trafigura.

A Trafigura spokesman said the Probo Koala was calling at a number of different ports, as part of a pre-arranged route to pick up and offload gasoline cargoes.

And while the Probo Koala's slops were offloaded in Abidjan when the ship docked there, the company said independent experts had found the slops could not have caused the widespread alleged illnesses.

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