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Ivorians Risk Losing Oil Dump Millions


Ivorians Risk Losing Oil Dump Millions

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A Britain-based human rights group says victims of a toxic waste dump in Ivory Coast may never see the multi-million dollar settlement awarded to them in compensation for the illegal dumping of oil waste around Abidjan in 2006. Amnesty International is accusing a man who claims to represent the victims with trying to shift the compensation money into his own bank account.

There are concerns that victims of a toxic waste dump in Ivory Coast may not see their compensation money. Benedetta Lacey is special advisor on Corporate Accountability at Amnesty International.

"I spoke yesterday to some of the victims and they are very very worried that their compensation is going to disappear and is going to be stolen at the 11th hour essentially," said Benedetta Lacey.

More than three years ago toxic waste was transported to Ivory Coast on a ship chartered by the European company Trafigura. The waste was dumped at various sites around Abidjan. More than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems believed to be related to the waste.

Earlier this year Trafigura agreed to pay around $50 million to almost 30,000 victims of the dump.

The money was put into a bank account held by Leigh Day & Co, the law firm representing the victims. But a man who claims to represent the victims, Claude Gohourou, now wants to shift the money into his own account. Benedetta Lacey:

"A man falsely claiming to represent all of those victims has successfully got a freezing order on the bank account stopping the payment of the moneys and he has today applied to the court to get the money transferred to his own organization's bank account," she said.

According to Lacey, Gohourou only represents 1,500 victims of the toxic dump - a small proportion of the total number.

"He simply doesn't represent these people so he's falsely claiming that," said Lacey. "And we are really concerned that if the money is transferred today, that money will never be seen again."

The Ivorian court is considering whether the money will be transferred into the account held by Gohourou's association.