4. Trafigura: Ivory Coast Toxic Waste Dump (2006)
What happened? In 2006, the Probo Koala, a Panamanian ship chartered by Dutch oil and commodity trading company Trafigura was refused permission to unload its contents as they were deemed too toxic unless they paid a disposal charge higher than Trafigura were willing to pay. The cargo was then shipped to a series of other ports and was refused access to all of them until it reached Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire. A dumping company by the name of Compagnie Tommy agreed to take the waste. Compagnie Tommy did not process the waste and dumped it illegally. The waste dump led to the deaths of 15 people and resulted in 108,000 seeking medical attention.
What did Trafigura do about it? Trafigura attempted various lawsuits and other tactics to deny any connection between the illegal toxic waste dump and the number of people becoming sick as a result. In 2009, they contacted their friends at PR firm Carter-Ruck, who set up a superinjunction, meaning that the press weren’t even allowed to refer to questions being asked in the British Parliament on the matter, let alone name the people involved. This questionable legal device was ignored by a number of people in the media and the next day Trafigura became a trending topic on Twitter.
Who came out on top in the end? Carter-Ruck, who proved themselves to be the biggest, baddest most ruthless PR company you don’t want to mess with.