Panda Waste stung by €350k fraud in bid to export scrap metal

Recycling firm seeking to recover sum from Saudi-based lawyer with links to royal family

Irish recycling giant Panda Waste was the victim of a €350,000 fraud in a failed bid to export scrap copper from Saudi Arabia, new documents reveal.

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The scam, which occurred in 2011 but has only come to light in recent days, was instigated by a Saudi-based lawyer with links to Prince Turki Bin Nawaf Al Saud, a political attaché based at the Saudi Embassy in Dublin who is the grandson of King Abdullah, the former ruler of the desert Kingdom. The costly debacle led to Panda withdrawing from doing business in Saudi Arabia, and sparked an international legal and diplomatic row.

The recycling firm, one of Ireland’s largest waste collection and recycling companies, was expanding internationally at the time and saw Saudi Arabia as a potentially lucrative new market. Panda engaged agent Clinton Chaney of Dublin-registered company Chaney Shari’Ah Investments to source scrap metal in Saudi Arabia. Chaney subsequently signed a contract with a man who he believed was Prince Turki, with an address given at the Saudi Embassy in Dublin, and the Prince’s lawyer, a Yemeni national, Mr Tariq Bin Marzouq. The contract purports to permit the Irish firm to export 793,000 metric tonnes of scrap metal. It was signed on April 26, 2011, and bears the official stamp of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce.

Panda agreed to make a payment of Stg£278,000 to Mr Tariq in 2011 — the first of three planned payments — to secure scrap metal from his firm. Mr Tariq is described in leaked documents as having “several sites of scrap copper cable and steel within several cities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. But within months of signing the contract, Mr Tariq had “taken payment, delivered no product whatsoever and disappeared”, documents sent to the Saudi Ambassador in Ireland in February 2012 reveal. “This amounts to theft and deception,” wrote commercial agent Clinton Chaney.

Panda Waste secured a judgment against Mr Tariq Bin Marzouq last year in Riyadh’s Grand Court. Mr Tariq failed to appear in court. The judgment has not been enforced and Panda has not yet recovered any of its £278,000. “Mr Tariq has failed to return a penny of the £278,000 sent to him in good faith, and according to legal contracts. Additionally, he has now ceased to communicate with any of our party,” a leaked confidential company document confirms.

Mr Tariq failed to respond to queries from the Sunday Independent. The Irish recycling firm made a number of efforts to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels including writing to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dublin and the Saudi Foreign Minister in Riyadh before instigating legal action, documents reveal.

In 2012, the Saudi ambassador in Ireland was warned about the “potential diplomatic implications” of the case as it was alleged that Panda was “encouraged” by Prince Turki’s “standing and official position to engage in business with the Kingdom”. In a last-ditch bid to avert a court row, Panda executive Desmond Crinion wrote to the Saudi ambassador in Ireland urging him to intervene.

“Dear Ambassador, this is an urgent matter and we hope to avoid legal proceedings against HRM Prince Turki and his lawyer Mr Tariq Bin Marzouq,” he wrote. Outlining Panda’s complaint, Mr Crinion wrote: “Mr Tariq could not deliver the copper despite telling us many times he had the copper in storage and that it was ready to be shipped, and [it] transpired later that there was no copper. We immediately requested him to refund our money. At a later stage he purchased a quantity of scrap using some of our funds and then refused to deliver us the copper. We requested a meeting with Prince Turki several times to find a way to solve the problems as we did not want to deal with Prince Turki’s lawyer Mr Tariq anymore. Unfortunately we feel that we have been let down by Prince Turki and we need your assistance to speak with HRH Prince Turki to instruct his lawyer Tariq Bin Marzouq to refund the money we sent to him.”

“Until now, we have actively attempted to avoid this becoming a major diplomatic issue and are keen to protect both the reputation of Prince Turki, the Saudi royal family in general, and the reputation of the Kingdom in the business community. “We do not wish the matter to reach the courts — and thereby be reported on widely in the world’s press. A story of this sort reported widely could prove catastrophic for the Kingdom.”

Panda Waste bosses declined to comment on the matter, but a source with knowledge of the case confirmed the veracity of the documents seen by the Sunday Independent.

The documents were released by WikiLeaks as part of its Saudi Cables leak, which involved more than half a million cables and other embarrassing documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, embassies and state institutions.

Article Credit : Irish Independent