Mercuria Energy falls victim to fraud after painted stones delivered instead of $36m in copper

MERCURIA Energy Group, a commodities trading company, claimed it was the victim of fraud after containers full of painted rocks were delivered to a port in China instead of $36m worth of copper it thought it had bought from a Turkish supplier.

Bloomberg News described the delivery of the false consignment as a “saga” that “… unfolds like a gangland thriller“.

According to the newswire, some 6,000 tons of blister copper in more than 300 containers were switched with jagged paving stones and spray-painted to resemble the semi-refined metal before their arrival from Istanbul.


Turkish police took 13 people into custody in relation to the faux-copper scheme, said Bloomberg News. Mercuria was seeking redress in both Turkish courts and a UK arbitration case against the copper supplier, Bietsan, it added. The trader has also filed a formal criminal complaint with Turkish police and prosecutors alleging cargo substitution and insurance fraud, leaving the authorities to determine who’s responsible.

“Suspects have been taken under custody who are thought to be involved in the various parts of this organized crime against Mercuria,” the Geneva-based Mercuria said in a written statement in which it thanked the Istanbul Financial Crimes Department.

In 2014 and 2015, Mercuria took provisions to cover potential losses after metal contained in a warehouse in the Chinese port of Qingdao was seized by authorities as part of fraud investigation, said Bloomberg News.

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