Italian court sentences executives to jail for asbestos-related deaths

February 22, 2012

Turin, Italy – In what Italian Health Minister Renato Balduzzi is calling a “historic” decision, an Italian court recently handed down 16-year jail sentences to two executives convicted of failing to comply with safety rules.

Prosecutors alleged that a lack of precautions at cement maker Eternit’s four plants in Italy damaged the environment and spread asbestos fibers to nearby towns, sickening workers and residents and leading to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths.

The defendants – Stephan Schmidheiny, former Swiss owner of Eternit, and Belgian shareholder Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne – were sentenced in absentia on Feb. 13. Schmidheiny’s attorney said he would appeal.