A recycling and export company has sounded the alarm on frauds in the waste sector after its name has been repeatedly used by foreign opeators for illegal activities.
For six years, Leicester-based Oceala has received complaints and threats of legal actions from businesses claiming they had purchased materials from the company but never received them.
The companies defrauded are based overseas, typically in Australia, China, Vietnam and Canada and managing director Martin Smith said the problems started just after the company obtained an export licence.
Fraudsters have been using Oceala’s name on e-commerce platforms, such as e-Bay or Alibaba, or in fake websites. They provide the company’s address and fax numbers, and contact details for Martin Smith, but they use a mobile number instead of the company’s landline.
They post adverts to sell a range of materials, most of the times items Oceala does not deal with, such as lorry tyres, batteries, WEEE and scrap fridge compressors. The fraudsters ask potential buyers to pay an amount upfront.
Smith, left, said defrauded companies have lost between $10,000 (£6,500) and $20,000 on average.
Smith said: “It is frustrating that our name has been used by someone that is not entitled to do so, and the impression that it has created about our business in international markets.
“It is unjust, immoral, but there is very little you do about it. And we feel for the people that have been subject to the fraud, especially if they have lost money. But at the same time, we are a victim as well.”
Smith has been working with the police, who believe the fraud originates from Nigeria, where Oceala’s name and contacts are periodically used and then sold on to others. Oceala has been operating since 1983, and its sister company Casepak operates a MRF in Leicester.
Research by MRW has found a significant number of adverts for the sale of ‘scrap fridge compressors’ on Alibaba.
Such trading is not illegal, but waste needs to be passed along the waste management chain with the required paperwork, such as waste transfer notes and consignment notes if the material is hazardous.
Prices for fridge compressors on Alibaba ranged from $200 (£130) to $400 per tonne. Sellers appear to be UK-based companies but only one had a genuine UK number. A spokesman for that business said lawful consignments would be accompanied by waste transfer notes and proof of a waste management licence was required.
But for seven other companies MRW tried to contact, the UK number associated with the seller was redirected to a phone line overseas, possibly in west Africa.
Only one call was answered. The businessman claimed the compressors were of “European origin”. He said he would have invited the buyer to collect the scrap from a site in Liverpool but only after he received payment.