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Head of metals operations at Trafigura departs in reorganisation

FILE PHOTO: Trafigura logo is pictured in the company entrance in Geneva

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of metals operations at commodity trader Trafigura has left the company as part of a global restructuring in the wake of a huge alleged nickel fraud, a source with the knowledge of the situation said.

Trafigura said on Feb. 9 it had booked a $577 million charge for the first half of 2023 and was taking legal action after discovering alleged "systematic fraud" over the receipt of cargoes meant to be nickel but that it said did not contain the metal.

There has been no evidence to suggest that anyone at the company was involved or complicit in the alleged fraud, Trafigura has said.

Svetlana Kabanova, who was in charge of operations for the metals trading arm at Trafigura's Geneva headquarters, is no longer working for the company, said the source, who declined to be named.

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There was no immediate reply from Kabanova after being contacted via LinkedIn.

Her departure was part of a long-planned but recently accelerated restructuring of global operations team to bring together metals and minerals along with gas and oil under a single management structure, the source added.

Operations teams at commodity trading houses oversee the details of transactions, including logistics.

Trafigura has taken legal action against Indian businessman Prateek Gupta in London's High Court, alleging Gupta's companies substituted other materials for nickel that the commodity trader had bought.

A spokesperson for Gupta said on Tuesday they were preparing "a robust response" to the allegations.

A London judge last month imposed a $625 million freezing order on assets controlled by Gupta and his companies.

Court affidavits filed by Trafigura have showed that it paid Gupta's companies for nickel cargoes that did not match contract specifications or come with documents verifying their authenticity.

At the time, Trafigura said in response to a request for comment that the discovery of the situation was "an opportunity to review and tighten systems and procedures, and a thorough review is under way".

Sokratis Oikonomou, Trafigura's head of nickel trading, has also left the company, according to a court affidavit filed last month by a lawyer at the company.

(Reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Jason Neely)