Column: The devil’s metal strikes again in Trafigura nickel fraud case – by Andy Home (Reuters – February 19, 2023)

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Another year, another nickel scandal as the devil’s metal lives up to its reputation. When German miners first came across the stuff in fifteenth century Saxony, they dubbed it “Kupfernickel”, or “Devil’s Copper” because it looked like copper but wasn’t.

Appearances can be deceptive when it comes to nickel, as Trafigura has just found out half a millennium later. The commodity trader will take a $577 million charge in the first half of 2023 against potential losses arising from what it called a “systematic fraud” involving cargoes of nickel that were not nickel.

It’s an age-old scam but this one is big, involving 1,104 containers with up to 25,000 tonnes of nickel. Or not, as Trafigura is discovering to its cost.

This year’s scandal follows hot on the heels of the market blow-out in March last year, when the London Metal Exchange (LME) had to suspend nickel trading for fear of a complete market collapse. Though unrelated, the two incidents reinforce a sense of crisis around how nickel is currently traded.

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