Tahiti, April 11, 2022 – Environment Director Miri Tatarata was charged Monday in the case known as the “toxic canisters” immersed in theY cup holders Kura Ora II in January 2019, when they still contained methyl bromide, a gas that is especially harmful to humans and the seabed. More than three years after the firstinvestigative acts, the judicial investigation is relaunched by this fourth accusation in this file.
Just over three years after the discovery of empty methyl bromide canisters floating on the surface of the water between Tahiti and Moorea, the so-called “toxic canisters” case submerged with the Kura Ora II in January 2019 was revived this week by a new and forceful accusation. On Monday afternoon, the director of the Environment (Diren), Miri Tatarata, was heard for almost three hours by the investigating judge, Frédéric Vue, in charge of the judicial information opened in this file. In the end, she was prosecuted for several crimes related to the violation of the environmental code.
three years of education
Let us remember that at the origin of this issue of marine pollution, which had aroused a very particular emotion at the time, the sinking of the ship Kura Ora II it had submerged off Tahiti on January 11, 2019 after being completely cleaned up. A procedure authorized by local regulations, but at the end of which the JRCC Papeete maritime rescue center had been alerted by the presence of several empty cylinders, containing methyl bromide, brought to the surface of the water. Boats that had been quickly identified as belonging to the biosecurity department and had been loaded onto the roller coaster Kura Ora II during your dive.
Toxic product for humans and for the marine environment, prohibited in mainland France since 2005, methyl bromide is used by the biosafety department for the fumigation operations of its phytosanitary unit. And although the authorities of the State and the Country initially assured that these thirty empty cylinders did not present a risk of contamination, the investigation finally showed that no less than 87 cylinders, including 18 still full of toxic gas, had been illegally dumped with the remains of the Kura Ora II.
Following the discovery of this ecological scandal, three administration executives were taken into police custody and later prosecuted on February 27, 2019. The former deputy director of the Department of Biosafety, Rodolphe Putoa, while ‘on board’. According to information collected by Tahiti Informationthe agent admitted to loading the cylinders with I’“tacit agreement” the person in charge of the dives in Diren, Claude Serra, who had told him that given the lack of export possibilities, the immersion of these cylinders seemed like a “correct solution”. Facing investigators, Claude Serra admitted that he was aware of the highly toxic nature of methyl bromide.
Hearing in turn, the commander of the Autonomous Port, François Chaumette -who had to leave his post after this scandal- stated that he did not know that methyl bromide was toxic. He also explained that he had informed the director of the Autonomous Port, Jean-Paul Le Caill, of this dive. In response to his statements, Jean-Paul Le Caill, for his part, maintained that he was the recipient of the emails related to this dive, but that he had not read them.
“A usual or known process”
Monday’s accusation against the director of the Environment, Miri Tatarata, is therefore part of the search for responsibilities in this case. Note that the person in question is already on trial for murder, in the case of the still unexplained disappearance of her former partner, the journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud, 25 years ago. On Monday, her lawyer, Me Loris Peytavit, already indicated that he challenged this procedural act and that he refuted that his client had had the slightest information about the shipment of the Kura Ora II.
However, from judicial sources, the gendarmerie investigation has revealed in this case “a general consensus of those involved in illegally dumping waste, along with maritime pollution, without worrying about safety regulations”. Hearings of the waste treatment companies, the company responsible for decontamination, the maritime inspector, the shipping companies, the Autonomous Port, or even the Country departments responsible for the ecological protection of Polynesia. “denotehasit is not a process that seems usual or known”.