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Union Carbide Pledges to Keep $3 Billion for Bhopal Claims

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Associated Press

Union Carbide Co. assured a court Thursday that it would keep as assets $3 billion, the amount of money the Indian government claims as compensation for the gas disaster that killed more than 2,800 people.

Anil Diwan, the attorney for the Danbury, Conn., company, gave a written agreement to Bhopal District Judge M. W. Deo.

Carbide was responding to fears expressed by lawyers for the Indian government that Carbide would restructure its capital worldwide in an effort to circumvent the court’s final ruling.

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More than 2,800 people died in December, 1984, when toxic gas leaked from a Bhopal pesticide plant owned by Carbide’s Indian subsidiary.

The Indian government, on behalf of the victims, filed a $3-billion lawsuit against Union Carbide in September, 1986, claiming that negligence caused the worst industrial accident in history.

Union Carbide has maintained that it was caused by sabotage by a disgruntled employee.

India filed suit after passing a law making it the sole representative of all the victims and after a U.S. court said American courts did not have jurisdiction in the case.

In its written agreement, Carbide said it “has maintained and shall continue to maintain unencumbered assets with a fair market value of $3 billion.”

Indian government counsel Vepa Sarathy told the Bhopal court that the document was not legal because it was not signed. Deo called it “an inadvertent error” and ordered Carbide lawyers to get it signed.

Deo suspended hearings in the case until the High Court rules on a petition that Carbide filed in July. Carbide is seeking to have Deo removed from the case, accusing him of bias against the company.

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The hearing will reconvene Sept. 16.

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