The containerised shipments all originate in Jakarta and are purportedly bound for China or the Philippines. Initial enquiries indicated that the containers were all loaded as stated, but it soon became apparent that the boxes in each consignment were destined for discharge at a variety of ports different from those specified in Bills of Lading.
IMB Divisional Director Michael Howlett commented: “These recent cases suggest that potential fraudsters are using an ever-increasing degree of market intelligence to carry out their activities. In these examples, it would appear that someone was actually watching to see which containers were loaded on board certain vessels before attempting to dupe unwitting financiers.”
As part of its investigation, the IMB found that the details as per the Bills of Lading were correct for the cargoes’ pre-carriage into a regional trade hub. But it then discovered that the containers diverged at this point. In one example, 55 containers on one B/L were found to have been despatched to at least 10 separate destinations. Of the 55, only 16 were being transported to the correct discharge port.
The documents complied with the Letter of Credit inasmuch as the cargoes were loaded as stated on the Bills of Lading. However, as these documents were issued by an NVOCC, the Bureau undertook enquiries with the physical carrier and determined the different ports of discharge.
Mr Howlett continued: “It would appear that someone may have initially set up a Letter of Credit for a smaller shipment, then used this information and details about containers on the same vessel to set up a new transaction for a far larger cargo. It is important that banks and trading houses remain vigilant in the face of the growing sophistication of such scams, maintaining levels of due diligence against all documents, even those that on face value look genuine.”
The IMB recommends regular due diligence checks against all customers, old and new, and advises that independent verification be sought on the details of shipments, no matter how legitimate they initially appear.