This week, the film about the victims of the toxic waste scandal in Chilean Arica premiered in Amsterdam. At the same time, Boliden sent a letter to the Arica lawyers stating that the Swedish lawyers themselves may be sued for the legal costs of more than 40 million Swedish crowns.
It is through the documentary that SVT initially received the information that Boliden had threatened to sue the Arica side’s lawyers.
– They report that they have not been reimbursed for legal costs, just over 40 million crowns, and that they reserve the right to make claims for damages corresponding to these costs, says Johan Öberg, lawyer for Arica Victims.
Boliden was sued for more than 100 million
On March 27, 2019, Boliden was acquitted from liability for the damages that arose in relation with the export of arsenic dust to the city of Arica in Chile during the 1980s. Among other things, the Court of Appeal ruled that the claim for damages came too late as Swedish legislation prescribes claims for damages after ten years.
The victims in the city of Arica had merged into a limited partnership, Arica Victims, to be able to sue Boliden for more than 100 million crowns in damages. But after the loss in the Court of Appeal, Arica Victims instead became liable for payment of Boliden’s legal costs, which amounted to 41 million crowns.
No money in a bankrupt company – Boliden sues lawyers
The limited partnership Arica Victims, however, had no assets to pay with and went bankrupt. Boliden has now reported the Swedish Arica lawyers, Johan Öberg and Göran Starkebo, to the Swedish Bar Association.
– The background, we believe, is that the two lawyers have been instrumental in circumventing the rules of the Code of Judicial Procedure on court costs, but also that their financial self-interest has been disproportionately large, says Klas Nilsson, communications director at Boliden.
He believes that the two Swedish lawyers have created the company Arica Victims and that they deliberately circumvented the rules on court costs as the company was completely empty of assets.
The lawyers defense – it’s about human rights
Johan Öberg believes that the only way to run the process was to gather the almost 800 clients under the same lawsuit. He says it is about everyone’s right to a free trial, according to the European Convention on Human Rights.
– A prerequisite for being able to run a process like this is that you create some form of legal person. After receiving this request from Chile, the Swedish company accepted all 800 claims and could then be a party to the lawsuit, it was the Swedish limited partnership that sued Boliden, says Johan Öberg.
– There was no opportunity at all for these poor people in northern Chile to pursue a claim against Boliden if they had to provide a security of 10-40 million crowns, they did not have the money.
Published at Svt Nyheter 24/11/2020. Edited 25/11/2020.
Translated by Tora Eriksson Hallberg