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They Paid $36M for Copper. Instead, They Got Rocks

Mercuria Energy is the victim of an elaborate fraud
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2021 12:00 PM CST

(Newser) – One of the five biggest oil traders in the world paid $36 million for 6,000 tons of copper, but instead received a bunch of painted rocks. Mercuria Energy Group, a Swiss commodities trader, went to Turkish police after realizing the 300 containers shipped from Turkey to China on eight vessels contained skids of paving stones, which had been painted a copper-like color, reports Bloomberg. An inspection company confirmed blister copper—an impure form of the metal, explains the BBC—was loaded into the first shipment of containers before they were sealed. Fraudsters, who apparently used real and fake container seals, broke into them after the fact, switching out the copper with paving stones, says Mercuria lawyer Sinan Borovali. This would've continued under cover of darkness every few nights, he adds.

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Mercuria had already sent the $36 million to Turkish supplier Bietsan Bakir by the time the containers began arriving in the Chinese port of Lianyungang from Ambarli toward the end of August. The Geneva-based trading house, which had previously done business with the supplier, went to police after discovering that all but one of Bietsan's seven insurance contracts were forged, per Bloomberg. "It's been determined that the incident is the outcome of fraud perpetrated in an organized manner," according to police, who've arrested 13 people in a series of raids. The suspects "are thought to be involved in the various parts of this organized crime against Mercuria," the trading house says in a statement, thanking the Istanbul Financial Crimes Department. (Read more fraud stories.)

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