The world’s biggest and longest-running asbestos-related trial reaches its climax on Monday at a court in Turin. The former owner and a major shareholder of the Eternit fibre cement company are charged with failing to comply with safety regulations and of causing an environmental disaster.
More than 6,000 people who lost relatives to asbestos-related cancer, or who suffered health problems, are seeking damages against Stephan Schmidheiny and Jean Louis de Cartier. The alleged victims all worked in Eternit factories near Turin, or lived close to them.
The prosecution is calling for a 20-year prison sentence for the Swiss and Belgian nationals.
Public prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello said:
“Restrospectively we can say that the asbestos tragedy is one of a failure of prevention. The information was known then. I worked on asbestos cases in the 70s. At the time everyone knew what it did and knew what need to be done.”
The accused reject the allegations and their lawyers say they did not have direct responsibility for the Italian company.
The ruling case could have implications for other asbestos cases around the world.