A fraud investigation has been launched after a commodities trader who was expecting a delivery of copper worth £26m received a shipment of stones spray-painted to look like copper.

Geneva-based Mercuria Energy Group says it had ordered the metal from a Turkish supplier last summer.

About 6,700 tonnes of copper blister, an unrefined form of the metal, was placed into some 300 containers and loaded onto eight vessels in Turkish capital Istanbul, but somehow when it reached its destination in China, it had been replaced with paving stones.

This is despite the fact that the containers had been secured with anti-fraud seals – which were reportedly intact when the shipment arrived in China.

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Mercuria had already paid for 90% of the cargo loaded for shipment

Mercuria Energy, one of the world’s biggest oil trading conglomerates is seeking compensation in from the copper supplier Bietsan Bakir through courts in Turkey and the UK.

The company has filed a civil suit for a debt claim in Turkey and filed a report for theft and fraud with the Turkish prosecutor’s office.

Sinan Borovali from Mercuria’s lawyers KYB Law said that the company had already paid 90% of the price of cargo as it was loaded for shipment.

Bietsan Bakir, the Turkish firm which sold Mercuria the copper, has declined to comment on the matter

While the shipment was in transit, Mercuria paid a total of $36 million in five installments to Bietsan Bakir.

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Turkish police opened inquiries as soon as the complaint was made and they they have already made a number of arrests.

A statement from the police department said: ”There has been a criminal investigation petition by the buyer against the seller and two intermediaries.

”It’s been determined that the incident is the outcome of fraud perpetrated in an organised manner.”

“Suspects have been taken under custody who are thought to be involved in the various parts of this organised crime against Mercuria,” the company said in a statement while acknowledging the assistance of the Istanbul Financial Crimes Department.

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