Trafigura names new battery metals heads in wake of nickel fraud

Trafigura found out that some cargoes it had bought didn’t contain the nickel they were supposed to, and spent two months uncovering the scheme. (Image courtesy of Trafigura.)

Trafigura Group has appointed new co-heads of battery metals trading — a business the commodities giant has said was the victim of a “systematic fraud” that could cost it more than half a billion dollars.

Mehdi Wetterwald and Daniel von Arx, who have both worked at Trafigura for over a decade, will run the global nickel, cobalt and lithium trading operations, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that head of nickel and cobalt trading Socrates Economou is leaving the group, although Trafigura has said it doesn’t believe any of its employees was complicit in the alleged fraud.

The company has accused Indian businessman Prateek Gupta and companies connected to him of fraud after discovering that nickel cargoes it had bought did not contain any nickel at all. Gupta and his companies have not responded to attempts to seek comment.

Von Arx joined Trafigura in 2009 and is currently head of metals and minerals for North America, based in Toronto, and will relocate to Geneva. Wetterwald is a senior nickel and cobalt trader and has worked across a number of Trafigura offices, having joined the company in 2012. They will report to Gonzalo De Olazaval, one of Trafigura’s two co-heads of metals trading, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Trafigura is one of the world’s biggest players in the trade of industrial metals from copper to zinc. It has increased its presence in battery metals in recent years, investing in nickel producers, cobalt procurement and lithium battery recycling.

(By Archie Hunter)


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