IMB identifies rash of false shipments into North Africa

  • 11 November 2010

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has identified a series of potential documentary frauds related to purported shipments into North Africa.

The shipments, all for single-container consignments, appear to originate in several countries. At first glance the bills of lading appear genuine, although a number of enquiries made by the Bureau quickly identified irregularities that allowed them to alert their members to the potential fraud.

IMB enquiries found that several of the nominated vessels did not exist and, of those that did, many of them were not in the vicinity of the loading port at the stated time. Several of the vessels that did exist appeared to operate in the Mediterranean, which suggests that the party responsible for the suspect documentation had at least some experience of the local trade.

IMB Divisional Director Michael Howlett commented: “As is frequently the case, these documents appeared authentic. It was only through analysis that they were found, in fact, to be for shipments aboard vessels that were on the other side of the world, or indeed, vessels which did not exist. This recent spate shows that fraudsters are attempting to use North African destinations  as a cover for fraud.”

Another area identified for special attention was in the nominated ports of loading. Several of the documents had the cargo loading in ‘China’, without naming a specific port. Several others named the port of loading as Geneva, in landlocked Switzerland.

Furthermore, it was found that the numbers for several of the containers involved in the shipments did not comply with the industry standard and, as such, were not in existence.

Mr Howlett continued: “It is vital that banks conduct independent checks on all documentation. With bills of lading, it is possible to make a number of independent checks- this is a simple way of saving the time and money involved with falling victim to a fraud.”

As part of its service to members, IMB conducts due diligence on all trade documents, including Bills of Lading, and seeks independent third-party verification to provide an extra level of confidence in transactions.