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Stephan Schmidheiny: the end of impunity and lies. The trial of the century, held in Turin, sentences the asbestos magnate to 16 years

Stephan Schmidheiny: the end of impunity and lies. The trial of the century, held in Turin, sentences the asbestos magnate to 16 years


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By Paco Puche

“For the first time in memory, one of the greatest magnates in the world today, and for almost the entire 20th century, was sentenced to a sentence of this magnitude: sixteen years in prison (…) He has been convicted of the crimes of 'permanent malicious environmental disaster' and 'due to omission of safety measures' at work (...) To friends, partners, necessary collaborators and other supporters of the Avina Foundation, we must remind them, today, that' Wanted 'his benefactor Stephan Schmidheiny ”.


In the midst of unprecedented expectation, with people coming from all over the world and with more than a thousand people listening patiently to the reading of the sentence that lasted three hours, on February 13, a great sentence was handed down. the time that a before and after was marked for the whole world, in relation to the asbestos tragedy.

Against this postmodern fashion of crying for the victims without inquiring into the causes of their misfortunes, the Turin trial has been the triumph of the victims and the punishment of some culprits with names and surnames. The accumulated pain for the dead, the sick and the families and friends of thousands of concrete people of flesh and blood, physical and moral pain, due to the disasters and crimes of the asbestos business, deserved justice. When the sentence was heard, a mixture of joy, tears and contained tension flooded the rooms and corridors that housed those hundreds of victims.

In the name of 2,191 dead and 605 sick, more than 6,400 civil parties had appeared. As the president of the room was reading the sentence, the atmosphere that flooded the atmosphere was that of some names (they had to be mentioned each and every one) that raised blisters among the public. It was not be for lowerly. This trial had been initiated by a lawsuit filed by the victims or their next of kin in 2004. In 2009 the preliminary hearings began, and it was in December of that same year that the trial itself began. In 2012 we celebrated the final verdict, eight years between one thing and the other. But the tragedy began in 1906 when the asbestos factory was installed in Casale Monferrato, a town near Turin. Since then, workers and townspeople have been contaminating until 1986 when Schmidheiny closes the factory, leaves the premises and “runs away”. If someone thinks that this abandonment has canceled the problems, they are wrong with the lethality of asbestos. To this day, one person per week still dies in Casale from past exposure to asbestos: at the factory, at home or in town.

And it is that with asbestos we speak of a conspiracy of silence, supported by the four great historical oligopolies of the mineral (two English, one European and one American) that have managed to deceive people for a century, based on lobbying, to pay to people, to win them over to their environment, to hire marketing agencies and green washing and, ultimately, to cover up their shame with philanthropy.

And it is that asbestos has given a surprise that like the goddess Nemesis, it has come to take revenge on all those who have enriched themselves with the lie and the asbestos business. We are talking about mesothelioma, a cancer that when discovered is known to come from exposure to asbestos and that not even tobacco has an influence on it. Therefore, the lie about the safety of asbestos, of any kind, is a lethal lie. But, in addition, exposure to asbestos has a latency period (time that mediates between exposure and the manifestation of the disease) of between 30 to 60 years, so that those responsible, the executioners, the criminals of the asbestos business are they will have to do with the future victims of their past business for decades. According to the WHO, it will probably be ten million people who must inexorably die from their exposure to asbestos in any environment.

For the first time in memory, one of the world's greatest current tycoons, and for almost the entire 20th century, was sentenced to a sentence of this magnitude: sixteen years in prison. He has already announced that he will not comply with it (in the same way that he has not deigned to appear at the trial at any time), and for this he will do everything in his power: from changing nationality, or personality, or wandering between helicopters , submarines and mansions, or entrust himself to the Society of Jesus of which he is a great supporter and financier. Indeed, the Jesuits are joined by a close friendship and relationship that they turned into gratitude: when they awarded him an honorary doctorate for his Venezuelan university, in 2001, they praised him so highly, putting him as an example to follow, that today At the sight of this judgment they will go around repenting. Allying with a person responsible for so many crimes should not be anyone's dish.


With these dangerous alliances it will always be possible to say as Schmidheiny used to say with asbestos: “that its lethality was not known then”. In the case of asbestos, it is the lie that has fed the conspiracy of silence, because since 1889 (sic) its pathologies were known, which were confirmed throughout the 20th century, until the asbestos-mesothelioma relationship was well demonstrated in 1964. Schmidheiny took over the business in 1975, so he has been lying to this day that a courageous and exemplary sentence can land his bones in jail. Neither his alliances with the Church nor the magnitude of his fortune nor the thousands of associates and beneficiaries of his commercial philanthropic foundation called AVINA have been able to protect him.

Likewise, friends from the good old days are left with the ballot on how to disengage from this alliance with a convicted person for crimes against thousands of people. They can no longer plead ignorance as they have been doing until now. When asked, they said: "We do not know if this foundation is what they say it is", and some, even when requesting their withdrawal from the entity, have appreciated the services provided. Now you know, without a doubt, at whose expense such services were provided.

He has been convicted of the crimes of "permanent malicious environmental disaster" and "for omission of security measures" at work. The "malicious" character makes their conduct intentional, the environmental character alludes to the dissemination of lethal powders and the "permanent" character refers to the continuity of its dangers, as we have seen. The omission of security measures obviously refers to your profit ambition.

A descent to the concrete

This trial, it has been said, will warn those who once contaminated hundreds of workers, as is the case of Uralita in Spain and how it is being in the world in the more than one hundred countries that are not prohibited from this mineral. But in those that are prohibited, a long, dangerous and expensive process of deamiating remains, since it must not be forgotten that, for Spain, the three million tons installed and dispersed everywhere are potentially a source of danger to the health of almost everyone the Spanish. And there are those responsible for this pending tragedy, let's not go back to the ambiguity of "we are all responsible."

But another issue, to which this verdict guilty of crimes against hundreds of people comes to reveal, once again, is that the two foundations linked to asbestos (AVINA and Ashoka) are doing a disservice to all social movements in our country, that are called alternative, or grassroots or anti-capitalist. Both asbestos and GMO foundations have pierced more than 16 of the aforementioned organizations. Since 2009, and before, we have been warning about the dangerous behavior of alliances with these foundations (apart from the funding they seek). Fortunately, the ads are starting to pay off. We refer to two: one, is that it has been achieved that three recognized leaders of social movements resign from their positions due to the obvious incompatibilities that they supposed to be from these foundations and representatives of various movements. But the most striking thing has been the allegation of the Rural Platform, for a time with ties to these foundations through its president, who has just disassociated himself from them in a forceful way. In a manifesto against GMOs that appeared on the 8th it was said: “And in Africa, Monsanto has recently allied with the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller and the Ashoka Foundation to promote GMOs (…) Although disguised in green, it is a murderous attempt (emphasis added) to introduce transgenic seeds to this continent ... "

From working with alliances to calling them "murderers" a great step has been taken.

All social movements with alliances with AVINA or Ashoka in our country must do the same, as they have already done in Latin America: strictly disassociate themselves from them and denounce their authentic nature, which in these two cases are clear and unequivocal, after this expected sentence. from Turin.

Today, the 13th, has been a great day for all the victims of asbestos that we cannot miss. It was the day that culminated a long struggle of more than thirty-five years of those affected by Casale Monferrato, who, like all pioneer movements, were not well understood by their own colleagues and were branded as wanting to close the factories with their attitude. Today is the day of the triumph of an honest and determined struggle for justice and truth, which has prospered despite the great resistance it has encountered in the long journey of several decades.

As an emblem of this resistance, we must mention Romana Blasotti, that 83-year-old woman, who has lost up to five of her relatives to asbestos during this battle and who is the mirror in which we must look at ourselves.

Congratulations to all the victims who have seen directly, or through their families, that sometimes there is justice in this world. For those they say: "We are satisfied but not happy, because we cannot forget the deceased and those who will become ill in the future."

This is a historic sentence as all analysts agree, which will have consequences throughout the world.

To friends, partners, necessary collaborators and other supporters of the AVINA Foundation, we must remind them, today, that their benefactor Stephan Schmidheiny "WANTED"

14.02.2012 Paco puche, Special Envoy of the Observer to the trial in Turin, Italy. www.revistaelobservador.com

Notes to the photographs:

1. Romana Blasotti with a banner that reads: “Eternit justice”. At the end of the reading of the sentence, “It's done” has been added by hand - Photo by Pacopuche

2. On the outskirts of the Palace of Justice the image of Schmidheiny, one of the condemned, the founder of Avina.


Video: A Lawyers Guide to Trial Objections (June 2022).


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