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Trader Buys $36 Million of Copper and Gets Painted Rocks Instead

  • Commodities trader Mercuria says it is the victim of fraud
  • Thieves in Turkey switched painted paving stones for copper
A container of painted paving stones.
A container of painted paving stones.Source: Sinan Borovali/KYB Law Firm

Commodities trader Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. struck a deal last summer to buy $36 million of copper from a Turkish supplier. But when the cargoes started arriving in China, all it found were containers full of painted rocks.

The saga unfolds like a gangland thriller, with the Swiss trading house saying it’s been the victim of cargo fraud. Before its journey from a port near Istanbul to China even began, about 6,000 tons of blister copper in more than 300 containers were switched with jagged paving stones, spray-painted to resemble the semi-refined metal.