Trafigura

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Trafigura Beheer BV
Type Private
Industry Commodity
Founded 1993
Headquarters

Lucerne, Switzerland
(Head office)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
(Registered office)
Area served Global
Key people Claude Dauphin, (Chairman)
Products Raw materials/merchant
Revenue US$ 133 billion (2013)[1]
Net income US$ 2.2 billion (2013)[1][2]
Employees 8,773 (2013)[2]
Website www.trafigura.com

Trafigura Beheer BV is a Dutch[3] multinational commodity trading company founded in 1993 trading in base metals and energy, including oil. It operates from 81 offices in 56 countries and is the world's third largest private oil and metals trader after Vitol and Glencore Xstrata.[4][5] Trafigura was set up by Claude Dauphin and Eric de Turckheim. It split off from a group of companies managed by Marc Rich in 1993.[5] Dauphin owns less than 20% of the company, with the rest owned by 500 senior staff.[6] Trafigura has been named or involved in several scandals, particularly the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump.

Corporate history[edit]

Trafigura Beheer BV was established as a private group of companies in 1993 by six founding partners: Claude Dauphin, Eric de Turckheim, Graham Sharp, Antonio Cometti, Daniel Posen and Mark Crandall.[7][8] Claude Dauphin, Chairman and CEO, and the last remaining founder in an executive position, owns less than 20 per cent of the group’s equity while more than 700 senior managers control the rest.[9]

Initially focused on three regional markets – South America (oil and minerals), Eastern Europe (metals) and Africa (oil) – Trafigura has since diversified and expanded globally.[10] The group currently operates from 81 offices in 56 countries.[11]

In November 2013 it was announced that Tory peer and former leader of the House of Lords Lord Strathclyde would be joining Trafigura as a non-executive director. He had previously stood down from the board of the group’s hedge-fund arm following the 2009 controversy over the Côte d'Ivoire incident.[12]

Investments[edit]

In 2003 the group established its fund management subsidiary, Galena Asset Management.[13] In 2010, Trafigura bought 8% of Norilsk Nickel.[14]

In February 2013 Trafigura invested $800 million in the Australian energy market, acquiring more than 250 petrol stations, two oil import terminals and five fuel depots in three separate acquisitions by its subsidiary Puma Energy.[15][16] At the time, there was interest in Australia among energy traders due to a combination of rising demand and the closure of outdated, high-cost refineries.[17] The same month, Trafigura joint venture DT Group partnered with Angola’s state oil firm Sonangol to form a new company, Sonaci DT Pte Ltd, to market Angola’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.[18]

In March, Trafigura announced a deal with South Sudan to export Dar Blend crude oil from Port Sudan.[19]

In October 2013 Trafigura secured USD 1.5 billion in financing for an upfront loan to Russian oil producer OAO Rosneft. The prepayment facility, which provided a loan for advance payment for more than 10 million tons of products over five years, was the largest such deal ever completed by Trafigura.[20]

A month later Trafigura signed an agreement with Dallas-based pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners to transport crude oil and condensate via a partially converted 82-mile pipeline from the Eagle Ford oil field in McMullen County, Texas, to Trafigura’s deep-water terminal at Corpus Christi Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico.[21][22]

Bond issuances and reported earnings[edit]

In 2008, the company had equity of more than $2 billion and a turnover of $73 billion that generated $440 million of profit.[5]

In March 2010 Trafigura made its first venture into capital markets, issuing Euro 400m ($539m) in five-year Eurobonds.[23]

The following month Trafigura listed its first perpetual subordinated bond on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) at a fixed rate of 7.625%.[24] The issuance raised $500m in long term capital that is treated as equity by international accounting rules, leaving existing shareholders undiluted.[25][26] By 2011, its revenue had increased to $121.5 billion and its profits to $1.11 billion,[1] with profits falling 11% in 2012.[27]

In 2013 as a consequence of the Singapore listing, Trafigura released financial statements for the first time, reporting Q1 profits of $216.1 million – up 3.2 per cent on the previous year. Revenue grew 7.9 per cent to USD 31.2 billion.[28]

Controversies[edit]

Oil-for-food scandal[edit]

The company was named in the Iraq Oil-for-Food Scandal in connection with the Essex, a Liberian registered "turbine-tanker" that had UN approval to load Iraqi crude at Iraq’s main export terminal at Mina al-Bakr. The tanker was chartered by Trafigura Beheer BV and according to its captain, Theofanis Chiladakis, the Essex was at least twice 'topped off' with an extra 272,000 barrels of crude after UN monitors had signed off the cargo.[29] This was on May 13 and August 27, 2001. Elf-Aquitaine employees had first talked about this scheme in February 1998.[30]

A Trafigura subsidiary called Roundhead, Inc. had bought the oil from a subsidiary of the French oil trader, Ibex Energy and claimed it paid Ibex a "premium" of 40 cents per barrel over the official United Nations selling price. In early October 2001, the Essex was intercepted off the coast of Curaçao before it could offload its illegal cargo. This resulted in more than US$5 million in additional shipping costs for Trafigura, and led them to sue Ibex in a London court for having misled them. But Ibex managing director Jean-Paul Cayre claimed in an affidavit that Trafigura had cooked up the scheme to "make up for an earlier loss on an Iraqi oil deal that fell through in 1999."

Waste dumping in Côte d'Ivoire[edit]

On July 2, 2006, the Probo Koala, a ship leased by the company, entered a port in Amsterdam to unload several hundred tons of toxic waste.[31] Amsterdam Port Services BV, the company that had been contracted to take the waste, raised their price to process the waste 20-fold soon after determining the waste was more toxic than previously understood. So, after balking at a competitor's 1000 euro per cubic metre disposal charge near Amsterdam, Trafigura decided to have the ship take back the waste and have it processed at various offloading sites, which all refused it until it was accepted at Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, one of Africa's largest seaports. According to Trafigura the waste was then handed over[32] to a local newly formed dumping company, Compagnie Tommy, which illegally dumped the waste instead of processing it. Many people there became sick due to exposure to the waste, and investigations were begun to determine whether it was intentionally dumped by Trafigura. Trafigura stated in a press statement that their tests showed the waste not to be as toxic as had been claimed, and that they were unsure why so many people had become ill from exposure to it.[33] The New York Times reported on October 3, 2006 that the dumping of the waste by Compagnie Tommy was indeed illegal.

On February 13, 2007, to release its jailed executives in response to the deaths of ten people and the various illnesses of over 100,000 people attributed to the waste, Trafigura paid €152 million to Côte d'Ivoire in compensation. The payment also exonerated Trafigura from further legal proceedings in Côte d'Ivoire.

On February 19, 2007, Côte d'Ivoire attributed the deaths of five more people to the waste dump, raising the total to 15.[34] The Guardian newspaper later wrote that "Official local autopsy reports on 12 alleged victims appeared to show fatal levels of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, one of the waste's lethal byproducts."[35]

In May 2007, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the press officer of Trafigura, operating under the username Press Office T NL, attempted to alter the Dutch Wikipedia article "Probo Koala" on three separate occasions, with intent to clear the company's name. The article was then temporarily locked by Wikipedia administrators so that it could not be modified.[36]

2009[edit]

In May 2009, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that it had obtained conclusive proof that Trafigura had released toxic waste in Côte d'Ivoire.[37] The BBC News programme Newsnight also reported in May that the dumping of waste in Côte d'Ivoire had led to deaths and serious health consequences. Trafigura denied this and attempted to sue the programme for libel.[38]

In August 2009, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported that Trafigura Beheer and its lawyers sued the Dutch government in order to keep a document of the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) secret. This document had been given to the lawyers of the victims of Cote d'Ivoire toxic waste. Trafigura wants this decision to be reversed on the basis that the victims are not a party to the Dutch case under Dutch law, and claim it would do them irreparable damage if published. The contents of the document are, according to the newspaper, not challenged by Trafigura. The newspaper stated that the NFI determined that the contents of the tanker had been 528,000 litres of extremely alkaline waste constituting 6.8% sulfur, for 3.5% alkyl-thiols and 0.5% hydrogen sulfide.[39] According to a September 2009 UN report, posted by Wikileaks,[40] the dumping drove 108,000 people to seek medical attention.

On September 4, 2009, the court decided that the prosecutor should not have given the documents to Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers of the victims, because there was no direct relation between the environmental crime that Trafigura was a suspect of in The Netherlands and for which the samples were taken and analyzed, and the dumping in Côte d’Ivoire. It might be possible that the lawyers of the litigants could receive the documents, but for this a different procedure would need to be followed. The Dutch government was required to demand the return of the documents, and require that Leigh Day not make use of the documents in the civil case in the United Kingdom.[41]

On September 16, 2009, a BBC Newsnight broadcast claimed to have uncovered evidence revealing that oil-trading company Trafigura knew that waste dumped in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 was hazardous.[42] The Independent published a story about the dumping of the waste on September 17, but later removed the story from their website. The story in question has been archived on Wikileaks.[43]

On December 12, 2009 the BBC removed its online video of Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean's report on Newsnight on 13 May, and also deleted the associated BBC News online article. Their action was presumed to be a response to a demand by Trafigura's lawyers in their ongoing libel action. Bloggers responded by reposting the video on YouTube and linking to it.[44] Subsequently Wikileaks has published the defence the BBC prepared against the libel suit brought by Trafigura[45] and Richard Wilson and Calum Carr have published the Court File containing Trafigura’s reply.[46][47]

On December 17, 2009, the BBC withdrew one of the allegations it made during the May 2009 Newsnight broadcast, acknowledging that the allegation could not be proven.[48] Later that day, the BBC broadcast an apology to Trafigura on Newsnight.[49] The BBC however added: "The BBC has played a leading role in bringing to the public's attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of 500 tons of hazardous waste", and "The dumping caused a public health emergency with tens of thousands of people seeking treatment." Trafigura had only brought the libel action against a single aspect of Newsnight's reporting, the BBC statement went on: "Experts in the [compensation] case were not able to establish a link between the waste and serious long-term consequences, including deaths." [50] At ALEV Alastair Mullis, of Norwich Law School, argued that the BBC paid damages as they could not substantiate the claims of the deaths: Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, rebutted. The video of this can be found here.[51]

2010[edit]

On April 24, 2010 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists presented the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting to the team of journalists who had revealed the Trafigura story. The award went to the British journalists Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean from BBC Newsnight and David Leigh from the Guardian, Synnove Bakke and Kjersti Knudsson from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, and Jeroen Trommelen from the Dutch paper De Volkskrant. The citation says the award was for reports "which exposed how a powerful offshore oil trader tried to cover up the poisoning of 30,000 West Africans".[52] In July 2010 Trafigura was convicted in Amsterdam of illegally exporting the toxic waste to Africa and fined one million euros.[53]

Super-injunction[edit]

On October 12, 2009 The Guardian newspaper reported that it had been prevented by a legal injunction applied for by London libel lawyers Carter Ruck (the name of the legal firm being the only fact the Guardian were free to report in the case) from covering remarks made in Parliament. It complied with this super-injunction and neither named the questioner nor published the question.[54]

The Spectator also speculated that the gagging order involved Trafigura and noted that Trafigura became a trending topic on Twitter with the story shared and distributed through numerous weblinks.[55][56] The Guardian confirmed that Trafigura was the source of the gagging order, after the order was lifted the next day.[57] The question that they were unable to report was from Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, commissioned by Trafigura.[58]

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation have published the report in question and a copy of the gagging order against The Guardian on their website.[59][60] Comedian and author Stephen Fry played a key role in spreading the story via his popular Twitter page, describing the gagging order as "outrageous, grotesque and squalid".[61]

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian described the injunction as "a fantastic own goal".[62] According to a press release on the website of the lawyers acting for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, the reason that The Guardian could not report the question asked by Paul Farrelly was because a gagging order has been in place since 11 September 2009, before the MP asked the question. They also stated that it had never been their intention to prevent the press reporting on Parliament and that they had since agreed on changes with The Guardian to the gagging order so that they could report on the issue.[63]

On the evening of 16 October 2009, it was reported that the injunction had been lifted and the report published.[64]

The debate in parliament[edit]

Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, secured a Westminster Hall debate on the gagging, conducted on 21 October 2009. A partner at Carter Ruck, Adam Tudor, wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, claiming that the matter was sub judice, but the debate did take place.[65] During the debate, Denis MacShane asked "do we not need to see the partners of Carter-Ruck brought before the bar of the House to apologise publicly for this attempt to suborn parliamentary democracy?" Evan Harris drew the government's attention to the fact that although the injunction had been dropped, Carter-Ruck were continuing with a libel action by Trafigura against the BBC's Newsnight programme. Carter-Ruck told Newsnight that they must not repeat an allegation that deaths were caused by the dumping of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, even though Hansard, in 2007, reported the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations laid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before Parliament and a memorandum of explanation to those regulations stated: "The recent example of the release of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire leading to the deaths of a number of people and the hospitalisation of thousands underlines the risks involved in the movement and management of waste.'" Harris asked: "[H]ow can it be that that can be in Hansard, yet there are still threats of legal action against Newsnight?" As the debate was winding up, Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister, said that the government were concerned about the over-use of super-injunctions. She would consider whether further guidelines needed to be issued to the judiciary, and she stressed that the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, which allowed the proceedings of Parliament to be reported without interference, was still in force. In the debate, Peter Bottomley read the URL of the report in Parliament to make sure it was in the public domain.[66] On 27 May 2010, the UK's only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, used her maiden speech in the House of Commons to question ongoing media restrictions surrounding Trafigura.[67]

2012[edit]

In September 2012, Amnesty International and Greenpeace Netherlands published the results of a 3-year investigation into the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump, in a report entitled "The Toxic Truth".[68]

The report accused Trafigura of a series of failings, describing the toxic waste dumping as "a story of corporate crime, human rights abuse and governments’ failure to protect people and the environment". Amnesty International and Greenpeace called for the company to be prosecuted in the UK over the incident.

The report included a formal response from Trafigura, in which the company contested the report's findings, arguing that it contained "significant inaccuracies and misrepresentations". According to Amnesty International and Greenpeace "Trafigura did not name any specific inaccuracies or misrepresentations".

On 16 November 2012 Trafigura and the Dutch authorities agreed to a settlement. The settlement obliges Trafigura to pay the existing 1 million euro fine and in addition the company must also pay Dutch authorities a further 300,000 euros in compensation - the money it saved by dumping the toxic waste in Abidjan rather than having it properly disposed of in the Netherlands. The Dutch also agreed to stop the personal court case against Trafigura's chairman, Claude Dauphin, in exchange for a 67,000 euro fine.[69]

Chemical explosion in Norway[edit]

On May 24, 2007 an explosion occurred in Sløvåg Gulen, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway in a tank owned by Vest Tank, it had severe environmental and health consequences for people living nearby. In 2008 the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation published the 50 min documentary "Dirty Cargo" disclosing what had happened in the small community prior to the explosion. The company Vest Tank was trying to neutralize the same kind of chemical waste that was dumped in Côte d'Ivoire when the explosion occurred. The owner of the waste was Trafigura, on whose behalf Vest Tank was working.[70][71][72]

Controversy in Malta[edit]

In February 2013, Trafigura Maritime Ventures Limited, the Malta based subsidiary of Trafigura Maritime Logistics PTE Limited based in Singapore; along with Total’s oil trading arm became embroiled in an oil buying controversy that led to the two giants being barred from the tendering process by the Enemalta oil purchasing board, pending conclusion of the case. Enemalta is 100% owned by the Maltese government and enjoys a near complete monopoly in the distribution of fuel oil for domestic and generational purposes.[73]

Structure[edit]

Some of Trafigura's major international units include:

  • Trafigura Beheer BV, based in the Netherlands. In 1999 it became the first company to obtain a contract to sell Sudan's oil internationally.[74]
  • Trafigura AG, is the main office, based in Lucerne, Switzerland, also deals with business in the United States.
  • Trafigura Pte Ltd runs the group’s petroleum trading in the Far East.
  • Impala Group of Companies which operate the group’s worldwide oil storage and distribution assets and investments has been a wholly owned subsidiary since 2001. Puma Energy operates in over 20 countries, mainly in Central America and Africa, and supplies a network of just over 600 service stations. In November 2010 it agreed to buy BP's downstream assets in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and - subject to partners' pre-emption rights - Malawi and Tanzania, which would add a further 188 retail outlets.[75] On 7 May 2012, Puma entered into an agreement to buy out the key shareholders in KenolKobil (the largest independent Oil Marketing Company in East & Central Africa) which could add 400 stations to its network.[76]
  • EMINCAR, based in La Habana, Cuba until 2010. Dedicated in Consulting and mineral logistic administration.
  • Galena Asset Management, based in London and FSA registered, is the subsidiary through which Trafigura has established and manages a fund management business. Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords, is a non-executive director on the board, although he has stated his intent to stand down from this post.[77]

References[edit]

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Literature[edit]

Ammann, Daniel (2009). The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. New York: St. Martin‘s Press. ISBN 0-312-57074-0. 

External links[edit]