By Eric Onstad
LONDON (Reuters) – Hyphen Trading Ltd, owned by property and metals tycoons the Reuben brothers, has demanded $8.4 million in damages from commodity trader Trafigura in a claim linked to an ongoing alleged nickel fraud case, a court document showed.
Earlier this month, England’s court website showed that London-based Hyphen Trading filed a claim against Geneva-based Trafigura, but no documents were made available.
In a court document published on the website on Wednesday, Hyphen said it paid Trafigura for 404 metric tonnes of nickel, but never received it.
Trafigura declined to comment, while Hyphen and Reuben brothers provided no immediate responses to requests for comment.
Trafigura booked a $590 million impairment earlier this month relating to what it alleges was “systematic fraud” by Indian businessman Prateek Gupta regarding nickel cargoes.
“In light of the Gupta fraud, Hyphen’s reasonable suspicion is that the goods… were not in fact nickel… but were in fact worthless rubble,” Hyphen said in the document.
Gupta’s representatives have said they would provide a robust response to the allegations and on June 16 filed documents asking a London court to lift a $625 million global freezing order on him and his companies.
The Hyphen lawsuit involves metal that Trafigura allegedly bought from Gupta and sold on to third parties.
Trafigura has said in previous court documents that it sold a small number of the cargoes to third parties, including to U.S. company Argentem Trade Services.
In the court documents released on Wednesday, Hyphen said that in July 2022 it agreed to buy nickel from Argentem, which was due to be shipped by Trafigura from Taiwan to Rotterdam.
To streamline the transaction, Hyphen paid Trafigura directly instead of going through Argentem, it added.
The goods were shipped to Jeddah instead of Rotterdam and when Hyphen asked to inspect the shipment, Trafigura refused, citing logistical complications, the Hyphen document said.
“As of the date of this document, Hyphen has been unable to take delivery of the goods or obtain an inspection of them.”
Hyphen said on LinkedIn that it is part of the Reuben Brothers Group, and UK Companies House records show Hyphen Trading as a wholly-owned subsidiary of RB International UK.
(Reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Barbara Lewis)
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