- Wednesday, 04 January 2012 08:35
The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is warning members over ongoing scams involving the fraudulent sale of Nigerian petroleum products.
The Bureau is regularly referred cases where vessels belonging to members are caught in the middle of a dispute. Most cases involve small companies based in either Nigeria or Ghana and poor quality documents that IMB analyses quickly proved as fake. The documents purportedly show the ownership of cargoes carried on board certain vessels and the scam centres around these spurious documents being sold on to unwitting buyers, often at a heavy discount or for a hefty advance fee.
The IMB recently investigated a case on behalf of a German buyer which involved much better quality documentation, including one apparently confirming that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) had indeed supplied the seller with the goods. Furthermore, the details of the cargo appeared to match that of a genuine shipment which had taken place. More detailed checks, however, confirmed that the deal was nothing more than an advance-fee fraud.
IMB Deputy Director Michael Howlett commented: “These scams often rest on the fact that the victim is not well-versed in commodity trading. An experienced oil trader would recognise these scams for what they are. However, someone less experienced may well be tempted by the low price and apparent authenticity of the documents.”
The NNPC has a select clientele of major oil traders, as such it is only those who normally sell the product to other established companies.
Often, the sellers suggest to victims that they contact the vessels themselves and verify that the cargo is on board. It is possible, with relatively, minimal effort to confirm the cargo that a vessel is carrying. Confirming the ownership of such cargo, however, is more problematic.
IMB has recently seen cases where vessels have been detained at West African ports on the basis of false documentation regarding the ownership of cargo. Whilst innocence is quickly proved, there is still an impact in time and resources that could have been avoided were it not for these spurious transactions.
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 appearing on the documents are verified independently to prevent losses.
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