Egyptian Traders head detained in Russia wheat row
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Egyptian Traders head detained in Russia wheat row UPDATED 05 Aug 2009 | 07:52  
Egyptian Traders head detained in Russia wheat row

By Maha El Dahan

CAIRO (Reuters) - The chairman of private firm Egyptian Traders Co said on Wednesday Egyptian authorities had issued an order for his arrest in a row over a Russian wheat shipment that was rejected by Egypt and ordered re-exported.

Egypt, the world's top wheat importer, has been in dispute with Egyptian Traders since mid-May over the quality of wheat cargoes brought to the country and the authenticity of an import document that the firm has said was valid.

"An arrest order has been issued until the re-export LC (letter of credit) is cashed," Chairman Ashraf El Attal wrote in a brief e-mail sent by Blackberry to Reuters, adding that he would not be able to comment further from now on.

Egypt suspended all grain contracts with Egyptian Traders on June 7 after the prosecutor ordered the re-export of the quarantined shipment of 52,500 tonnes of Russian wheat and told Egyptian Traders to repay $9.6 million to Egypt's main state grains buyer GASC.

Attal sent his message early on Wednesday morning. He had told Reuters on Tuesday evening that he was being questioned by the authorities over the wheat cargo and re-export procedures.

Cargo inspector SGS said in June a falsified SGS quality certificate had been used on a Russian wheat shipment imported by Egyptian Traders. Attal said at the time that the document was "definitely" valid.

A judicial source, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly to the media, said on Tuesday Attal was detained for questioning, and that he was held on suspicion of forging a quality certificate.

Attal has said he was working to re-export the rejected wheat in order to repay GASC and on Tuesday said that one vessel had been loaded with half of the quantity and another vessel was expected within a few days.

"Payment will be effected as well very shortly," Attal had said in an e-mail on Tuesday.

Attal said in Wednesday's e-mail that GASC had not sent necessary export documents. "Vessel is ready and loaded for 10 days and waiting for GASC export documents," Attal wrote.

The rejection by Egypt of the Russian wheat cargo had cast a shadow over the country's grain exports.

The Russian Grain Union has called the seizures of Russian wheat provocative and an attempt to lower prices.

But Russian wheat prices were boosted when Egypt's main official wheat buyer bought Russian grain on July 21, the first since the row began.

Russian grain company Rosinteragroservis (RIAS) said last month it had started two arbitration cases against Attal's company Egyptian Traders for failing to pay for two Russian wheat shipments.

The firm sought arbitration at the London-based Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA).

Attal had been president of GAFTA but said on July 21 he had resigned that post to eliminate doubts about the fairness of any arbitration proceedings.


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