Kidnap alleged in China dispute
By Mure Dickie in Beijing
Published: October 30 2008 23:57 | Last updated: October 30 2008 23:57
A British scrap metal company has accused Chinese customers of abducting its chief trader for ransom in a case that underlines the challenges of doing business in China.
Goldarrow Metals alleged that Anil Srivastav was seized from a Shanghai airport this month and held for days in a small hotel in the eastern port city of Ningbo.
The company said it was forced to send shipping documents worth $350,000 to Ningbo Yibao Import and Export, a customer, to secure Mr Srivastav??s release after local police and British consular officials refused to intervene.
The affair comes amid mounting friction in the international scrap metal trade caused by a slump in commodity prices. Tens of thousands of tonnes of imported copper and aluminium scrap are reported to be sitting in Chinese ports after local companies defaulted on deals.
Goldarrow said Mr Srivastav went to Ningbo this month to seek $1.2m in due payments from Ningbo Yibao and associate companies. It alleged that James Xu, a Ningbo Yibao trader, instead told him he would not be allowed to leave the city until Goldarrow paid compensation for quality problems with a previously delivered scrap shipment.
When Mr Srivastav slipped away to a Shanghai airport to return to the UK, he said, he was dragged from the terminal by a group of men and bundled into a people carrier. ??I was shouting, ??Help! Help! Help!?? he said. ??I was totally terrified...one guy pointed his finger like a gun and put it to my temple.??
Mr Xu denied any involvement in holding Mr Srivastav against his will and said his only role in the case had been as a friend of the boss of another company, Ningbo Guanghe Metal Recycling, known as Guanghe. Ningbo Yibao said it had no knowledge of the transaction.
However, Mr Xu, when contacted by telephone, acknowledged that Ningbo Yibao had received the $350,000 in shipping documents sent by Goldarrow ahead of Mr Srivastav??s return to the UK. The documents had been transferred subsequently to Guanghe, Mr Xu said.
Goldarrow said it was forced to send the receipts to Ningbo Yibao ?C allowing it to redeem $350,000 of cargo from Chinese ports ?C to secure Mr Srivastav??s release.
The head of Guanghe, who gave his name only as Meng, said representatives of the company found Mr Srivastav at a Shanghai airport early on October 17 and had asked him to return.
Mr Meng said Mr Srivastav had then been taken to a police station because Guanghe believed he was guilty of fraud. He denied holding him against his will.
After the dispute was resolved, Guanghe staff had merely accompanied him to Mr Xu??s wedding and to places of entertainment before sending him off with gifts on October 21. ??We didn??t kidnap him,?? Mr Meng said.
Mr Srivastav said he was taken to a Ningbo police station where he appealed for protection but was returned to Guanghe staff. ??I said, ??Please put me in jail??, but they said, ??We can??t put you in jail because you haven??t committed any crime??.??
The embassy in Beijing said it did not become involved after concluding it was a business dispute. Ningbo city police confirmed they had been involved in a case involving Guanghe and a foreigner but declined to give further details by telephone.