Ex-Union Carbide chairman eludes summons in Bhopal disaster

India considers Anderson a fugitive

March 05, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Warren M. Anderson, chairman of Union Carbide Corp. during the 1984 chemical disaster at Bhopal, India, has apparently gone into hiding to avoid a summons to appear in a New York federal court as part of civil proceedings against him and the company, say lawyers who have hired a private investigator to locate Anderson.

Several attempts to deliver a summons to Anderson's last known address in Florida have failed, and the property appears to be vacant, the lawyers say. Union Carbide has declined to accept a summons on behalf of Anderson or to disclose his present location, said Kenneth F. McCallion, the lawyer who initiated the civil case.

More than 3,000 people were killed and 200,000 others were injured in Bhopal on Dec. 3, 1984, when 40 tons of vaporous methyl isocyanate, hydrogen cyanide, monomethyl amine, carbon monoxide and possibly 20 other chemicals were released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant after an explosion. Many more people have died since of gas-related illnesses. It ranks as one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

The company argues that it is not required to provide further compensation to victims of the disaster after a 1989 settlement for $470 million in a civil case brought by the Indian government.

"The settlement with the government of India in 1989 of all claims arising from the Bhopal tragedy did not just cover Union Carbide; it covered all directors, officers and employees, including Warren Anderson," said a spokesman at Union Carbide's corporate headquarters in Danbury, Conn. "Based on that settlement, we see no reason to encourage any disturbance of Anderson."

Anderson, who retired in 1989, is listed as living in Vero Beach, Fla. The Indian government, after criminal proceedings against him and the company, has issued an arrest warrant for Anderson and notified Interpol that he is a fugitive.

He is charged in India with "culpable homicide" -- the equivalent of manslaughter.

"We have had no luck in serving him at his residence in Florida," said McCallion. "Union Carbide has declined to assist or accept service on his behalf."

Union Carbide and Anderson, in absentia, are on trial as criminal defendants in India. Anderson and company officials in the United States have refused to subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Bhopal District Court, despite orders by the Indian Supreme Court to do so.

A U.S. District Court judge in New York also ruled in 1986 that Union Carbide "shall consent to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of India."

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