Fraudsters have robbed Europe’s largest copper producer of €185 million ($198 million) worth of the metal, possibly with the help of insiders, the company said Tuesday.
After carrying out an extraordinary inventory on August 31, Germany’s Aurubis found that it had paid inflated invoices for shipments of scrap metal and other inputs, based on samples that had been manipulated to show a much higher copper content than turned out to be the case.
The inventory had established the scale of thefts the company disclosed on August 31 and in June, an Aurubis spokesperson told CNN. The losses forced Aurubis to slash its pretax profit forecast for the current fiscal year by about €170 million ($182 million).
The company said on June 15 it had identified “past criminal activities” and that the public prosecutor’s office and police in Hamburg, where Aurubis is based, were investigating “active and former Aurubis employees” as well as people employed by other companies working at the Aurubis plant.
“The company has given the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police its full support for several years,” it added, noting that some of the suspects had been arrested.
Whether the same criminals are behind these past cases and the theft disclosed in August is the subject of ongoing investigations, the Aurubis spokesperson said Tuesday.
The State Office of Criminal Investigation in Hamburg is still conducting its investigation, the company said.
Hamburg police also told CNN earlier this month that it had opened a probe, adding that there was “currently no evidence” that the latest and previous cases at Aurubis were connected.
Aurubis produces about 1.1 million tonnes (1.2 million tons) of copper “cathodes,” or square sheets, per year at plants in Europe and the United States. The company accounts for around 30% of Europe’s production of such copper and 3% to 5% of global output.
Copper is widely used in construction, including in electrical wires and water pipes. It is also a vital metal for energy transition as it is used in wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars.
— Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting.