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South Korea Company Pays $21Mn to Fake Aramco

After making a $21-million wire payment to a fraudulent company account claiming to be that of Saudi Aramco, South Korea’s largest petrochemical company, LG Chem, is now seeking a full investigation and state assistance to recover its loss.

The $21-million payment was destined for Saudi Aramco, which is LG Chem’s supplier in Saudi Arabia of naphtha, the refined oil product used to make plastics and other petrochemical items. The payment was for supplies received in the second half of March.

"We have requested an investigation by prosecutors," said Song Choong-seop, a spokesman for LG Chem.

According to the South Korean company, it had received an email seemingly sent by Saudi Aramco Products Trading in which it was notified about a bank account change. The sender was aware of the amount of money which LG Chen owed its supplier and asked for the sum to be wired into the new account.

But the South Korean company said it may also consider taking legal action against the Saudi supplier if it turns out the latter failed to protect its email accounts.

Aramco declined to comment on this incident or on LG Chem’s possible legal steps against it.

In October 2015, Saudi Aramco said that fraudsters had targeted its trading unit, pretending to work for India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC). The attempt was apparently thwarted before any real damage was done.

However, Indian reports tell a different story. They claim that Saudi Aramco had been actually duped into making a payment equivalent to US$30 million into a fake bank account that it thought was ONGC’s. The payment was for the same supply as in this case, naphtha, which had been bought from ONGC.

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By James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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