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Egypt probes Russia wheat import papers for forgery
Published in Daily News Egypt on 11 - 06 - 2009

CAIRO: Egypt s prosecutor is probing documents pertaining to a Russian wheat cargo imported by Egyptian Traders Co. for forgery, a trade ministry adviser said on Thursday, a move the private grains importer said made no sense.
Wheat shipments from Russia have been under intense scrutiny in the most populous Arab country since May when the prosecutor ordered a quality investigation after dead bugs and impurities were detected in some wheat imported by Egyptian Traders.
Egypt, one of the world s top wheat importers, later suspended all grain contracts with the firm after the prosecutor ordered the re-export of a quarantined shipment and told Egyptian Traders to repay $9.6 million to Egypt s main state wheat buyer, GASC.
There is an investigation underway into whether or not the documents pertaining to the wheat shipment in question were all accurate or if there was any forgery involved, Hesham Ragab, legal adviser to the trade and industry minister, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
At the moment the investigation into the authenticity of the documents is underway, he wrote.
He had earlier told Reuters by telephone that one document submitted by the company in connection with releasing cash for the shipment was being probed. But he said it would be up to the prosecution to release any details.
Ragab said the first phase of the inquiry verified whether the shipment in question complied with GASC specifications and said that issue had now been addressed. He did not elaborate.
Egypt turned increasingly to Russian wheat this year to take advantage of lower freight costs, relying heavily on local grains importers like Egyptian Traders to supply Black Sea wheat rather than larger international suppliers.
Egyptian Traders dismisses probe
Egypt has bought almost a quarter of the wheat exported by Russia in the current marketing year, and Egyptian Traders has won a large proportion of GASC tenders in the past year.
Ashraf El Attal, chairman and chief executive of Egyptian Traders, told Reuters when asked about the latest probe: "This doesn't make sense to me, since the cargo will be re-exported.
"Everything else should be closed, said Attal, who is also president of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), a trade body with offices in London, Geneva, Beijing and Kiev.
Attal said he was waiting for the Seabird, the ship carrying another Russian wheat cargo also quarantined, to be discharged. He said the existing cargo could then be unloaded so the vessel could be used to re-export the rejected wheat.
The prosecutor's office, when it ordered the shipment re-exported, had cited conflicting results from probes into the wheat's quality by agriculture, health and prosecution authorities.
Over 100,000 tons of Russian wheat imported by various suppliers both from Egypt and abroad has been held in ports in Egypt since the start of the row in May, sources in Egypt said.
The Russian Grain Union has called the seizures of Russian wheat provocative and an attempt to lower prices.
An F.O. Licht commodity analyst told Reuters the transformation of the case into a criminal rather than a quality matter would take the heat off Russia's wheat exports.
"I think there is a lot of pressure that will be taken off Russia and quality problems if it becomes an internal squabble, Keith Flury said.
"It will remove a stigma that was associated with wheat from that region that would definitely help their international standing amongst other importers, he said.
Russia and Egypt have agreed that all shipments of Russian grain to Egypt will be accompanied by official certificates confirming that they comply with Egyptian wheat quality standards, Moscow said on Tuesday.


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