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UK scrap trader kidnapped by Chinese client

Asia – The scrap industry has been startled by reports that a UK non-ferrous metals trader has been kidnapped by his Chinese trading partner. The senior trader from Goldarrow Metals was taken just prior to checking in for a flight home from China. Goldarrow paid a US$ 350 000 ransom to the Ningbo-based company which released the man four days after taking him hostage.

From China the reports are totally different, varying from a complete denial by the Chinese company (through its lawyer), to the statement by the Chairman of the China recycling association CMRA Ma Hongchang, that there happened ‘unpleasant things’ but absolutely ‘no kidnap’.

According to a statement from Goldarrow, the episode began with a scrap deal that did not match the expectations of the Chinese customer, whose business forms part of a state-owned company.

Sources in China said the company had expected to receive six containers of copper shredded scrap but instead received Zorba. The senior trader had gone to Ningbo to collect payments totalling US$ 1.2 million. While staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Ningbo -a wellknown traders hub in the city- a representative of the Chinese company had taken him to a container terminal to show him a ‘quality problem’.

According to Goldarrow, the UK trader offered to arrange an independent quality inspection but the dispute escalated when his Chinese counterpart asked for his passport. The UK trader refused and left the Sheraton secretly through the back entrance and headed for the airport by taxi. While he stood in the flight check-in queue, five representatives of the Chinese company kidnapped him and took him back to Ningbo.

Goldarrow Metals – a member of the BIR world recycling organisation – contacted the Ningbo police and the UK Embassy in Shanghai, but neither was able to help the detained trader. ‘We are very disappointed that both the British Embassy and the Chinese authorities could not guarantee the safety of a British national travelling on a valid business visa issued by the Chinese Embassy,’ said the company’s Managing Director V. Sampath in a statement.

China’s position

Goldarrow felt it had no other option but to pay the ransom demanded by the Chinese customer. After couriering original shipping documents worth approximately US$ 350 000, the kidnappers released the man. ‘Is this the real face of China?’ asked Mr Sampath. Some Chinese sources have confirmed that the kidnap took place but some observers have suggested the incident should be viewed in the wider context of the containers’ contents failing to comply with the requirements of the contract.

Following the incident, Goldarrow decided to withdraw from the CMRA exhibition in Beijing, which is considered as Asia’s most important scrap metal exhibition. The kidnap also prompted the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) to issue a statement advising members visiting China to register with the US Department of State prior to leaving the USA.

In recent weeks, there have been numerous reports from ISRI and BIR members of Chinese customers reneging on contracts in response to the current market downturn. It has also been suggested that some foreign businessmen are being prevented from leaving China because clients in that country have named them in lawsuits and placed their names on immigration checklists. The Chinese company confirms it will come later with a statement which will explain ‘all the truth’.

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