Supreme Court cuts pollution fine

Factory owners to pay less than half of original fine for illegal waste storage

The Supreme Court decided on Thursday to slash the fine that cousins Henrik and Claus Prom must pay to environmental authority Miløstyrelsen for pollution caused by the factory they inherited from their fathers.

The pair had been fined over 130 million kroner in 2009 by the Eastern High Court after legal action concerning toxic waste left undisposed at a chemical plant they operated in Viemose in southern Zealand from 1994 until it was closed by environmental authorities in 1997. The judgment was appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided yesterday to reduce the fine to 534,000 kroner.

The ruling brings to a close 12 years of wrangling over whether the pair should be required to pay for the pollution caused by the company they inherited.

The original indictment charged the cousins with being responsible for the toxic waste that begin piling up at the facility starting in the 1960s. The company was originally called PromsChemical Factory A/S. When they took it over in 1994 they restructured it into a limited partnership, changing the firm’s name to H&C Prom Kemi ApS.

After the factory was closed, the authorities discovered some 4,000 tonnes of toxic waste stored on the site. The discovery triggered a criminal case in which Henry Prom was fined 300,000 kroner and sentenced to 40 days in jail.

Claus Prom changed his surname to Andersen and moved to England to avoid a criminal trial.

Miløstyrelsen eventually raised its claims against the Proms to nearly 7 million kroner. The High Court, however, found the pair accountable for only the waste piled up after the company restructured in 1994, less than a tenth of the total amount found on the site.

In its decision, the High Court also ordered Miløstyrelsen to pay courts costs of nearly half a million kroner.