Fraudulent bills of lading

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The ‘bill of lading’ is a formal document that serves as a receipt for cargo being transported by a sea carrier. The bill represents the cargo and the legitimate holder of the bill has the right to receive the cargo upon its delivery.

In the normal course of events, the seller of a cargo (‘the shipper’) delivers the cargo to the sea carrier at the port of loading, and the sea carrier issues a bill of lading to the shipper. The shipper then sends the original bill to the buyer of the cargo (‘the consignee’). The consignee presents the original bill to the carrier, at the port of unloading, who in return issues a delivery order to enable the consignee to collect the cargo from the port.

Sometimes this process is done through a ‘forwarder’ who works as a mediator between the cargo interests (the shipper and the consignee) on one side and the sea carrier on the other. The forwarder is deemed to be the carrier in terms of its relationship with the cargo interests and it can issue what are known as ‘house bills of lading’ against receiving the cargo from the shipper. It will also often receive the original bill of lading from the sea carrier…

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