IMB warns of spurious steel transactions

  • 9 April 2010

A number of suspicious transactions in the steel trade has been identified by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The Bureau identified several documents for shipments of steel products that appear suspicious, while conducting due diligence on behalf of members. The purported shipments covered consignments of steel billets from North African and Middle Eastern ports to Port Sudan.

The IMB’s enquiries identified a number of irregularities in the documents that cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents and the existence of the shipments which they purportedly represented.

IMB Divisional Director Michael Howlett commented: “Whilst these documents initially appeared convincing, we were able to quickly establish that they were not genuine. In the last 12 months we have seen a number of documents showing a similar modus operandi, which suggests that numerous submissions were made in the hope that a few would slip through a bank’s due diligence procedures.”

IMB checks quickly established that in all cases the nominated vessels did not exist, though their names resembled those of genuine vessels trading in the region. Checks with the operators of the vessels with similar-sounding names confirmed that they had no knowledge of the alleged shipments.

Furthermore, the documents featured numerous typographical errors that are unlikely to occur on genuine trade documents. The same parties appeared in all transactions, suggesting that shell companies had been set up to facilitate the fraudulent transactions. This means that the fraudsters were specifically targeting banks rather than legitimate buyers.

Mr Howlett continued: “We have seen several of these documents trickle through, indicating that more than one bank has been targeted. We have been able to save our members time and money by quickly denoting these specific transactions as high risk.”

Stringent due diligence checks on all parties involved in any major transaction are strongly recommended by IMB, even on parties with established trading records. Furthermore, the Bureau advises that all details of the shipment are scrutinised a third party.