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Issue #1536      22 February 2012

Eternit owners sentenced to 16 years of prison

In a trial in Turin, Eternit owners have been found guilty of thousands of deaths and have been sentenced to 16 years of jail. The case is unprecedented and can be exemplary for other producers and distributors of deadly asbestos worldwide.

On February 13 the Italian court in Turin put a final dot in the case of Eternit Group. The owners and managers of the Group, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, 65 years, and Belgian Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, 91, have been found guilty of ecological disaster entailing deaths of thousands of workers and members of the community of Casale Monferrato in province of Piemonte, Italy where a large enterprise of the Group was located. Multimillion fines have been imposed on the defendants.

The court accepted the prosecutor’s charges against the asbestos magnates for wilful and deliberate environmental disaster by polluting and scattering the asbestos killer fibres and deliberate and wilful failure to implement precautions in the work place.

The prosecutors Raffaele Guariniello, Gianfranco Colace and Sara Panelli during 62 hearings since 2009 showed how the defendants, despite their clear understanding of asbestos’ deadly consequences for people and nature, chose to maintain operation of Eternit factories for the sake of profits. Relatives of almost 3,000 dead and ill victims exposed to asbestos from 1952 until 1986 at Eternit Group enterprises, welcomed the guilty verdict with tears and applause.

Pursuing a global ban on asbestos for many years in partnership with the global trade union movement including the Building Workers’ International (www.bwint.org), the International Metalworkers Federation and the International Centre for Environmental Management welcomed the decision of the court of Turin and hope it will serve as a clear warning for all producers, exporters and importers of the deadly substance to stop immediately all production and use of asbestos all over the world.  

Next article – Why the Greens are winning

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