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Commodities groups investigate web domains linked to GFG Alliance

Commodities trading houses have launched investigations after web domains resembling their own were registered to an email address of an employee at Sanjeev Gupta’s metals empire.

The Financial Times discovered that the domains were registered with a Liberty House email address. Liberty House is Gupta’s commodities trading and industrial group and part of his GFG Alliance conglomerate.

The registrations include gunvorsg.com, a name that resembles Gunvor, one of the largest oil traders in the world. Gunvor declined to comment.

London-based trading house Concord Resources said it would send a cease and desist letter to Liberty House over the registration of concordresources.net.

“We will be formally reminding Liberty House that our business name Concord Resources is trademarked in a number of jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and Singapore for use in regards to resources wholesaling and other similar business uses,” said Mark Hansen, chief executive of Concord Resources.

In April 2017, the szmhgroups.com domain was registered, which resembles the szmh-group.com website of steel trader Salzgitter Mannesmann. Salzgitter Mannesmann said it regarded the use of the domain by external parties as “misleading” and that it would investigate the matter to review options to “prevent the misuse” of the domain.

The purpose of the registrations is unknown. It is also unclear if the corresponding websites were ever set up, but registering a domain allows the use of associated email addresses. 

Until its collapse in March, Greensill Capital lent billions of dollars to Gupta’s group on the basis of invoices.

The FT has since revealed that Greensill Capital’s administrator has been unable to verify some of these invoices, with companies listed on the documents denying they had ever done business with Gupta.

Gupta later told the FT that the company named on Friday, RPS Siegen GmbH, had only been “identified as a potential customer” and financing was provided on that basis.

Invoice-based financing propelled the rise of Gupta’s GFG Alliance, a loose collection of family-owned businesses that employ 35,000 people around the world and is now in jeopardy. 

The Liberty House email address was also used to register dozens of web domains for companies that the steel tycoon has insisted are independent.

This offers further indications that a network of companies — nominally controlled by the metals magnate’s friends and business associates — may be deeply enmeshed with Gupta’s troubled steel empire.

The registrations included a web domain for UBG Commodities, which is owned by Vladimir Delic. The 74-year-old Cyprus-based businessman is a close associate of Gupta, who helped Delic set up a Panamanian container shipping company in 2014. The weblink is still live, redirecting to Delic’s main trading company Unibros. 

Another of the domains was for the AarTee group, which is controlled by Gupta’s longtime associate Ravi Trehan. One of Trehan’s companies borrowed tens of millions of pounds from Greensill Capital last year, under a government-guaranteed loan scheme.

On one of AarTee’s web pages previously reviewed by the FT, Trehan paid tribute to Gupta, publicly thanking him “for sharing with us his vision for the regeneration of UK manufacturing”.

AarTee did not respond to a request for comment, but it has previously told the FT that it is a “separate independent business” from GFG.

In a recent podcast, Gupta addressed a series of FT investigations that exposed his companies’ business dealings with a web of related companies that some employees referred to as the “Friends of Sanjeev”. 

“Friends are very important, and doing business with friends actually is the safest form of business in my experience,” he said.

Most of the domain name registrations were dated between 2015 and 2017, using the email of Hyder Razvi, a Gupta employee whose LinkedIn profile describes his job as finance officer for a United Arab Emirates subsidiary.

A public domain name registration database lists the owner of many of the domains as Jwala Galva Steel, a subsidiary of the now-insolvent Indian steel manufacturer Uttam Galva. Gupta was a significant shareholder of Uttam Galva, according to corporate database Orbis.

Razvi said he had “no knowledge of setting up the domains”.

Some of the domain names were re-registered removing Razvi’s email address in the days following the FT’s inquiries, while some removed identifying information entirely.

Re-registering the domains would require access to the original email inbox, according to cyber security specialist Nick Furneaux of CSITech.

“You’d have to take over their email address, in which case the legitimate person would ordinarily see emails arriving into their inbox,” he said. 

GFG Alliance said: “We take these allegations very seriously and have initiated a third-party investigation into the matter.”


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