Trafigura says employee detained in China over cargo shipment

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Trafigura logo is pictured in the company entrance in Geneva

By Julia Payne

LONDON (Reuters) – Trafigura AG said on Thursday one of its employees had been detained in China after customs rejected and launched a probe into a cargo with “high iron content” that the trader had shipped to a major Chinese steel firm.

In a post on its official Weibo account earlier this month, China’s General Administration of Customs said customs officers from the city of Zhanjiang, in southern China’s Guangdong province, had detained a suspect in Shanghai in a solid waste smuggling case.

A video accompanying the post showed officers inspecting documents in an office before marching a handcuffed man wearing a suit past the reception area, with Trafigura’s company logo visible on the front desk.

China has launched a sweeping crackdown on solid waste imports in recent years and smuggling busts are frequent. The country is prohibiting all imports of all material designated as “foreign garbage” from the end of 2020.

A Geneva-based Trafigura spokeswoman said the investigation centered on the quality of the cargo, which had come from a supplier in the EU and was shipped in July, but added that it “met the contractual requirements including a high (66%) iron content as determined by independent testing.”

It was accepted by the customer and delivered at the loadport in Europe, with Trafigura arranging onward carriage to China, the spokeswoman said, without naming the steel firm.

“The customer was responsible for the import and customs clearance of the cargo upon arrival in China but Chinese customs refused to clear the goods for import,” she added, noting that the cargo had since been shipped out of China at customs’ request and delivered to a steel mill in Southeast Asia.

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“One employee of Trafigura has been detained by the local customs authority,” the spokeswoman said. “We are working with the authorities and our Chinese customer to clarify the matter.”

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