From: Reuters
Published April 4, 2008 12:49 PM

Ivory Coast arrests suspect in toxic waste case

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast has arrested the head of the local company which unloaded and dumped toxic waste in Abidjan nearly two years ago, leading to the deaths of 16 people, a judge familiar with the case said on Friday.

Salomon Ugborugbo, director of the Ivorian waste handling firm Tommy which unloaded the toxic slops from the ship Probo Koala in August 2006 and dumped them at sites around Abidjan, was arrested on Thursday and is being held pending trial, the judge said.

Police are searching for other people accused of taking part in the scheme, he added. Ugborugbo had been on provisional bail since June 2007.

"We are in the phase of arrest of the people involved," said the judge. "The judicial police are on the ground and looking for them to bring them ... to start the trial."

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He declined to name the other suspects in the case but said they would be charged with poisoning.

He said the investigation did not concern Trafigura, the world's third-largest independent oil trading firm, which chartered the Probo Koala to transport the chemical slops from Amsterdam.

The ship ended up in Ivory Coast. In August 2006, toxic waste was found at open-air sites around Abidjan, where it poisoned thousands of people.

Trafigura agreed to pay a $198 million settlement to the Ivory Coast government but denied responsibility for the dumping or any wrongdoing.

Dutch prosecutors said in February they would file criminal charges against the oil company and Amsterdam council. An Ivorian court threw out a case against Trafigura in March.

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/ )

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; editing by Daniel Flynn and Tim Pearce)

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