Global commodity trader Trafigura said on Thursday it booked a $577 million charge in the first half of 2023, after discovering that some nickel cargoes it received did not contain the metal in a case of “systematic fraud”.
Geneva-based Trafigura said the fraud was committed by a group of companies connected to and controlled by Indian businessman Prateek Gupta, including TMT Metals and companies owned by Gupta’s UD Trading Group.
A Trafigura spokesperson said the firm had been involved in business dealings with Gupta and his companies for years without issue and other 2022 deals with his companies were legitimate.
UD Trading Group did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Trafigura said that it had begun legal proceedings against Gupta and the companies involved.
A Trafigura spokesperson said the legal process was taking place across multiple jurisdictions, although the contracts were signed under English law.
“We have only inspected approximately 10% of the inventory so far,” the spokesperson said.
“There were a number of red flags such as an increase in sailing time.”
Carbon steel was among the materials found in the containers instead of nickel. The company initially inspected containers in Rotterdam but the rest are for destinations around the world.
Prices of nickel, used in making steel, ended 2022 up 44% from the previous year.
Supply worries after major producer Russia invaded Ukraine and large short positions were cut led nickel prices to double to a record above $100,000 a tonne on March 8 last year on the London Metal Exchange.