Ex-I Coast minister cleared in dumping case

2012-07-26 10:25

Abidjan - Ivory Coast authorities said on Wednesday they would not prosecute former minister Adama Bictogo, who was dismissed in May over his alleged role in payments to pollution victims in a 2006 dumping case.

In an article published by the Etat Fraternite-Matin newspaper, prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said authorities had uncovered nothing to "motivate charges" against Bictogo, the former minister of African integration.

"There is no fraudulent collusion reported" between Bictogo and those who supervised the funds destined for toxic waste victims, Koffi wrote.

Bictogo had been suspected of syphoning off payments to victims affected by the dumping of toxic waste from a cargo ship in the capital Abidjan, and President Alassane Ouattara fired him in May.

The prosecutor however said Bictogo could face civil proceedings for allegedly collecting an "undue" advance of 600 million CFA francs ($1.09m) for his services as a mediator in the dispute.

According to Ivorian police and British law firm Leigh Day & Co, which represented Ivorian clients and reached a settlement with the Dutch multinational Trafigura, about seven million euros of the money that should have been paid to victims vanished.

That amount was supposed to compensate 6 000 victims.

In his report, Koffi confirmed money had been embezzled but he did not say by whom.

Trafigura had chartered the Probo Koala cargo freighter to transport toxic waste to the west African country, where it was illegally dumped in and around economic capital Abidjan.

The 528 cubic metres of spent caustic soda, oil residues and water killed 17 people and made thousands sick, Ivory Coast health officials have said.