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Oil shipment fraud off West Africa raises IMB fears it's spreading

THE International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning to shipowners to be on the look out for criminal gangs who make spurious oil fraud claims. 

Oil shipment fraud off West Africa raises IMB fears it's spreading
03 April 2014 - 03:27
Oil shipment fraud off West Africa raises IMB fears it's spreading

THE International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning to shipowners to be on the look out for criminal gangs who make spurious oil fraud claims. 

The scam works by the fraudsters claiming to be the victims, try to extort money from shipowners by launching legal action against them for supposedly failing to deliver oil shipments they allege they own.

This comes as a new case has been reported to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that occurred outside of West Africa, where these scams first appeared, raising alarms the practice is spreading to other countries.

A statement from the IMB said the new case "presents shipowners with a much bigger danger to their operations because it could seemingly be replicated anywhere around the world and particularly in states whose legal systems are less robust.

"It also allows the perpetrators to wait for the alleged offending vessel to arrive at the designated country before lodging a claim locally. This could mean that the vessel is trapped before it can act," said the statement.

The latest incident involves a vessel that trades regularly into the Arabian Gulf. A claim has been lodged against the shipowner to recover US$50 million, the full value of a consignment of oil.

The IMB said, "The claimant alleges that the cargo of oil it owns was loaded onto the vessel in Russia, but was never delivered to the designated discharge port in the Arabian Gulf.

"Moreover they apparently have documents to prove this, and a local court in the region has now been persuaded to issue a warrant of arrest against the vessel named in the claim.

"The case has put the shipowner in a dilemma. He is reluctant to risk taking the vessel into the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued for fear it will be arrested and he will become embroiled in litigation to get it released.

"At the same time, he is obliged to enter the region under the terms of the vessel's current charter party. Defaulting on it would mean he incurs financial penalties.

"Another snag in the case is that the documents presented to the court to obtain the arrest warrant appear authentic and confirm that the vessel did load the oil at the Russian port although it had not called at that load port.

"IMB, which is assisting the shipowner and has seen the documents, are warning other owners to be on their guard.

"It notes what stands out in this new variation to the West African fraud is the fact that documents produced in this case seem extremely credible, enough to convince courts of the claim," said the IMB.

The IMB is calling on those who have suspicions of this new type of crime to contact them so that a suitable response can be coordinated. 

It added it offers a range of services to assist shipowners in determining the authenticity of trade documents, one of which includes detailed analysis by specialist document checkers.

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