Whilst carrying out routine checks on behalf of members on the authenticity of Bills of Lading, the Bureau identified several fraudulent shipments that shared a number of similarities. As mentioned above, all of the shipments were bound for mainland China, but they originated from a number of different ports, including those in the United States, Spain and Canada. The shipments were all containerised and purportedly being carried by vessels operated by some of the larger liner companies.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: “These recent cases show that fraudsters are capable of producing convincing documents. These examples contain not only the names of vessels operated by the big liner companies, but also container numbers seemingly also owned by them. Following a number of checks with third parties, it was possible for us to quickly establish that, in fact, these shipments had never taken place.”
Checks conducted with the alleged load ports established that they had no records of the stated containers. Further investigation found that these container numbers did not conform to the industry standard and, as such, could not exist. Repeated attempts to contact the stated load port agents and NVOCC were unsuccessful.
The fraudulent documents all shared a common ‘Notify Party’ and various different exporters. Many of the documents featured the names of vessels that trade on the route of the alleged shipment.
Mr Mukundan continued: “The fact that these documents feature the names of vessels that ply these routes shows that whoever produced them has a level of insider, knowledge typical of those who have worked within the industry. It is, therefore, vital that banks remain alert and thoroughly check all documentation, even if at face value it looks similar to documents submitted for genuine transactions. As the recession bites and the volume of trade contracts, it becomes easier for fraudsters to entice victims into these spurious transactions.”
The IMB advises member banks and the wider trading community to take extra care with shipments bound for mainland China and to undertake rigorous background checks on all parties involved, whether or not they were previously known to the bank.