CHICAGO Aluminum and copper shipments allegedly involved in a "carousel" cross-border smuggling scheme and seized by U.S. officials have been claimed by a Texas warehouse company, according to court documents.
Laredo, Texas-based Trans Depot Inc. said it has held the seized metal since November 2012 at a storage rate of $7,000 per month that has been "wholly unpaid to this date," Trans Depot manager Adriana Estrada said in a claim filed in U.S. District Court in Texas. Trans Depot has a legal interest in the seized metal as a common-law lien to pay for the storage fees, Estrada said.
The material was seized after an investigation into metal shipped between Mexicos Recuperaciones Industriales Internacionales SA de CV (RIISA) and three U.S.-registered companies, according a complaint filed in federal court in June (amm.com, July 1).
Homeland Security investigators have accused RIISA and the other three companies of importing 1,448 shipments of aluminum, baled copper and copper filings in drums by using overvalued sales invoices and false North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) certificates of origin stating that the metal was made in Mexico. The aluminum and copper brought into the United States by RIISA and sold to the U.S. companies was then resold to RIISA at "below market prices," according to federal investigators. When the metal was exported to Mexico, allegedly falsified Nafta certificates indicated it was produced in the United States and Canada.
"RIISA had created a scheme in cooperation with (the three U.S. companies) to import and export the same metals from Mexico to help correct a trade imbalance that RIISA had with Mexican Customs maquiladora program," documents filed with the court.