The global nickel trading market is once again in the spotlight.
Having been at the epicenter of a massive short-squeeze that almost shuttered the London Metal Exchange (and remains mired in litigation), Bloomberg reports that the nickel market has been rocked once again as one of the world's largest commodity traders, Trafigura Group, is facing more than half a billion dollars in losses after discovering metal cargoes it bought didn’t contain the metal they were supposed to.
The giant commodity trader has recorded a $577 million impairment as a result of the fraud, and fired the group's head of nickel and cobalt trading, Socrates Economou (though the company made it clear that this was a systematic fraud committed against it by an outside party, and does not believe that anyone at the company was complicit in the fraud.).
Trafigura said in a statement that it has started legal action against Indian businessman Prateek Gupta and several companies connected to him including TMT Metals and subsidiaries of UD Trading Group.
“Since late December 2022, a small proportion of the containers purchased from these companies have been inspected as they reached their destination, and were found not to contain nickel,” Trafigura said in the statement.
“The majority of the shipments remain in transit awaiting further inspection.”
This is yet another black mark for the metals-trading industry, which in recent years has been beset by tales of fake warehouse receipts, duplicate shipping documents and containers filled with painted rocks.
Finally, Bloomberg reports that nickel is a popular metal with fraudsters. Its high value means that a single container full can be worth $500,000, yet it is traded in relatively large volumes and without the strict security that accompanies shipments of precious metals like gold.
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