Ivory Coast toxic spill victims want inquiry

2012-05-23 20:10

Abidjan - Victims of toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast said on Wednesday that officials should follow up the firing of a minister accused of stealing money from their compensation funds with a full inquiry.

President Alassane Ouattara fired minister for African integration Adama Bictogo Tuesday amid allegations he siphoned off payments from the €152m paid by Dutch multinational Trafigura to compensate victims of the 2006 dumping.

"We think the truth is coming out. The departure of Mr Bictogo is a start for justice," the president of victims' association Renadvidet, Charles Koffi, told AFP.

The association called Ouattara's decision "courageous" but invited him to follow it up with a full audit of the management of the funds.

A recent police report accused Bictogo, influential football team owner Cheick Oumar Kone and victims' association founder Claude Gohourou of embezzling €7m from the out-of-court settlement reached in 2007.

"We want [Kone] arrested," Koffi said.

Bictogo, who acted as a mediator to get compensation for victims, has said he wants to tell his side of the story to prosecutors.

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 528m³ of spent caustic soda, oil residues and water killed 17 people and made thousands sick, say Ivory Coast health officials.