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UK company accuses China customer of kidnapping for $350,000 ransom

Posted by Author on November 8, 2008

By Mure Dickie in Beijing, The Financial Times, October 31 2008-

A British scrap-metals company has accused Chinese customers of kidnapping its chief trader for a $350,000 (£212,000) ransom in a case highlighting the challenges of doing business in China.

Goldarrow Metalssays that Anil Srivastav was seized from a Shanghai airport this month and held for days at a small hotel in the eastern port city of Ningbo.

The company says it was forced to send shipping documents worth $350,000 to Ningbo Yibao Import and Export to secure Mr Srivastav’s freedom after local police and British consular officials refused to intervene.

The spat comes as slumping commodity prices are said to have left thousands of tonnes of imported copper and aluminium scrap sitting in Chinese ports after companies defaulted on deals.

Goldarrow says Mr Srivastav went to Ningbo this month to seek $1.2m it was due from Ningbo Yibao and associate companies. It alleges that James Xu, a Ningbo Yibao trader, told him instead that he could not leave until Goldarrow paid compensation for quality problems with a previousshipment.

Mr Srivastav said that when he tried to leave he was dragged away from Shanghai airport by a group of men and bundled into a car. “I was shouting, ‘Help! Help! Help!’ ” he said. “I was totally terrified . . . One guy pointed his finger like a gun and put it to my temple.”

Mr Xu denied any involvement in holding Mr Srivastav against his will and said his only role had been as a friend of the boss of another company, Ningbo Guanghe Metal Recycling, known as Guanghe. Ningbo Yibao said it had no knowledge of the transaction.

However, contacted by telephone, Mr Xu acknowledged that Ningbo Yibao had received the $350,000 in shipping documents sent by Goldarrow ahead of Mr Srivastav’s return to the UK. The documents had been subsequently transferred to Guanghe, said Mr Xu.

The head of Guanghe, who gave his name only as Meng, said company staff found Mr Srivastav at a Shanghai airport on October 17 and asked him to return to Ningbo.

Mr Meng said Mr Srivastav was then taken to a police station because Guanghe believed that he was guilty of fraud. He denied holding Mr Srivastav against his will and said that after the business dispute was resolved, he was sent off with gifts on October 21.

A spokesman for the UK embassy in Beijing said it had decided not to get involved after concluding that it was a business dispute.

Ningbo city police confirmed that they had been involved in a case involving Guanghe and a foreigner, but declined to give details.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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