The Big Copper Con

I like to keep my eye on the headlines.

Not because I’m a big fan of the media – I’m really not. But because most days there is one headline that really tickles me.

In recent weeks my personal favourites have been…

Government approves contraceptives for squirrels.
Church Reverend pictured with crisps on each nipple in 4 day cocaine bender.
Entire pavement stolen from Storrington Village.

Every now and then I also stumble across a story that catches my attention too. Like the big copper con.

Picture this.

You decide to make a significant investment in some copper. I’m talking $36 million.

So you do your due diligence – you use a company you’ve done business with before. Your shipment is checked upon loading and sealed to prevent fraud.

It’s all good.

Or so you think until the first ship arrives at its destination, it cracked open and instead of a container full of copper – you’ve got a container filled with painted rocks.

Yup, you read that right. Rocks. $36 million dollars worth.

That’s what happened to big commodities trader Mercuria just this month.

There’s a full investigation on the way with Mercuria seeking help from Turkish courts and issuing a U.K. arbitration case against the copper supplier, Bietsan.

Mercuria have also filed a formal criminal complaint with Turkish police and prosecutors, leaving the authorities to determine who’s responsible.

It seems some kind of organised crime syndicate is responsible for the switch. Under the cover of darkness the containers were opened and the copper and stones swapped over, with false seals being used to help avoid detection.

Think that’s bad enough? It gets worse.

Normally, a trading house could make a claim against a cargo’s insurance policy for non-delivery of goods. But Mercuria discovered that just one out of seven contracts used by the Turkish company to insure the cargo was real. The rest had been forged – leaving them facing a potential huge loss.

The good news is that the police are making some great headway into the case – in fact 13 people have already been arrested in connection. I’m hopeful that the copper will be found or at least Mercuria will get their money back – even for a big commodities trader $36 million is quite a hit to take!

So I guess the lesson is this: all purchases carry risk. While you can’t remove the risks completely, you can reduce them by working with freight forwarders you can trust.

We might not be the biggest players in the ocean, but at Millennium Cargo we’re committed to our customers and we’ll do everything in our power to help make sure your imports or experts go without a hitch.