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Fraudsters target food suppliers

London, UK: Suppliers are being duped out of millions of pounds by fraudsters impersonating established UK retailers and wholesalers – and the police are doing little to stamp out the problem reports The Grocer magazine.

The magazine reports that in the past 12 months, criminals have posed as companies including Iceland, Asda, Musgrave, JJ Food Service, Brakes, AG Parfett & Sons and Berry Bros & Rudd to order goods on credit.

The magazine says:  Iceland company secretary Jayne Burrell said it was first made aware of the problem in January by its German egg producer, which delivered large quantities of eggs to a self-storage warehouse in Enfield after receiving an email from a Kevin Grant, falsely claiming to work for the retailer.

Iceland contacted the Metropolitan Police Fraud Division and local police with a view to staging another delivery to catch the perpetrator. But this never went ahead after local police said they were called to a more serious incident. The Met Police then told Iceland that the crime did not “score enough points” on its fraud scale to warrant further investigation, Burrell said.

Since this incident, the mysterious ‘Grant’ and his aliases have placed orders with various companies in the EU for products including chocolate, olive oil, walnuts, pistachio nuts and garlic.

“The orders look very convincing at first glance and even include fake bank guarantees. The only giveaways are bogus email addresses, only providing a mobile number and requests for delivery to be made to self-storage units,” Burrell said.

A document sent by Spanish police to suppliers, seen by The Grocer, warned that the identities of Berry Bros and Rudd, JJ Food Service and Asda Stores had been assumed to place orders totalling €185,000.
Usually the supplier accepts the loss because they failed to verify the order, but JJ Food Service has found itself with a £30,000 legal bill after four suppliers in France took it to court in an attempt to recover €300,000 for goods ordered using its name.

Under French law, the suppliers are suing all parties in the supply chain, including the hauliers, without incurring legal costs.

Steve Parfett, chairman of AG Parfett & Sons, said the problem had got worse in recent weeks, with Parfett’s name used by fraudsters on at least 12 occasions over the past three weeks. “And police are not interested,” he added.