Sunday, May 29, 2022

“In defence of Trafigura”

I write on behalf of Trafigura in relation to the article which was published last week under the headline “Rogue company buys BP Botswana.”

Trafigura cannot and will not comment on any press speculation around BP’s disposal process or Trafigura’s potential interest in that process. Our response is motivated by Trafigura’s wider interests in Africa.

Trafigura is concerned to note that the article contains a number of serious inaccuracies and were particularly disappointed that you did not see fit to contact anyone from Trafigura prior to publication of the article.

Taken as a whole, the article depicts Trafigura as a “rogue” company and contains a number of very serious allegations.
These allegations are misleading and untrue.

In the circumstances I refer to your Editorial Policy, which states that it is “mandatory to seek balance by presenting all sides of the story” and your “promise to give all sides a chance t promote and advance their position”. Trafigura is concerned that Sunday Standard has not adhered to these standards.

In particular I refer to the following:

Ivory Coast

First and foremost, it is untrue that the oil slops to which you refer, which were discharged in the Cote d’Ivoire from the vessel Probo Koala, caused any deaths, or for that matter any serious injury or long term illnesses. This was the conclusion reached by 20 independent experts who were instructed on behalf of the parties to personal injury proceedings against the company in the English High Court. Those conclusions (which were endorsed by an English Court Judge) followed what was the most detailed and thorough investigation of the incident undertaken anywhere in the world.

In addition, it is important to make clear that Trafigura discharged the slops in good faith to an independent local company called Compagnie Tommy. Tommy had been recommended to by an experienced and reputable local shipping agent and also possessed the appropriate government licenses to receive the slops to dispose of them lawfully and safely. Trafigura has always maintained that it could not have foreseen (and did not foresee) the reprehensible and unlawful way in which Tommy went on to dump the slops in Abidjan.
Your article refers to the recent convictions in Amsterdam. However the Amsterdam case did not relate to events in Abidjan. On the contrary, it primarily concerned the highly technical question of which international regulation is applicable to the discharging and reloading of part of the slops.

Importantly, the court confirmed that there was limited risk to human health from Probo Koalo’s slops and that no damage occurred at Amsterdam Port. Trafigura is also appealing the Court’s decision ÔÇô a fact which your article also omits to make clear.

Jamaica

Trafigura has always made clear that it strongly denies any wrongdoing in relation to Jamaica and the matters to which your article refers.

High Beam Trading International

Your article gives the clear impression that Trafigura was in some way complicit in bribing board members of the South African Strategic Fuel Fund. The circumstances leading to the cancellation of the contract by the South African state (to which the article refers) were not of Trafigura’s making and Trafigura acted in good faith at all times. Trafigura would never condone, let alone knowingly be party to, any misconduct or corruption.

Indeed, as part of the very same out of court settlement to which your article refers, all parties agreed a press release which made clear that “The Strategic Fuel Fund association, High Beam Trading International and Trafigura have agreed to settle their dispute out of court. The set of circumstances that led to the cancellation of the contract are regrettable, but a sufficiently close relationship was built to the extent that participation by Trafigura in future contracts involving the Strategic Fuel Fund Association or its sister companies will not be affected.”

Allegations of “sanctions busting”

Your article gives the impression that Trafigura was knowingly involved in the illegal smuggling of oil, and again seeks to imply that the company was complicit in bribery.

While your article pays lip service to Trafigura’s denial of impropriety, this part of the article remains unbalanced and factually misleading in crucial respects. For example it was never alleged by the US authorities that Trafigura had been involved in smuggling oil or oil products out of Iraq.

The U.S. attorney of the Southern District prosecuted Trafigura AG for a customs violation, of importing goods into the USA having made statements; it was alleged, without reasonable grounds to hold that those statements were accurate. A plea agreement was entered into which makes no suggestion that Trafigura knowingly contravened UN Oil for Food regulations or U.S. laws ÔÇô it clearly did not. The “statements” were directly based on warranties from third parties (from whom Trafigura had bought the oil products in question) and which had been accepted in good faith as part of a binding contract.

Summary

Moving forward, Trafigura has no wish to become embroiled in a dispute with your newspaper. Indeed, the company would be willing to enter into a dialogue with you, partly to ensure that any future reporting on these matters is more balanced and accurate, but also to give Trafigura the opportunity to discuss with you the positive, forward looking approach it takes, particularly in relation to its dealings in Africa. In the meantime we request that the Standard agrees to publish Trafigura’s response to the allegations raised in your article.

Yours sincerely

Samia Yakub

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