Westford Trade Services, a trade finance lender that drew financing from Greensill-arranged funds, had previously attempted to hide the involvement of Liberty in its trading activity, according to documents seen by GTR.

Hong Kong-headquartered Westford, now registered as Westford Limited, is a commodity trading house that has its roots in the steel trading industry. It has also acted as a non-bank financier, supporting companies associated with Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance.

Receivables worth US$19.8mn from Westford Limited were packaged and sold through a Credit Suisse supply chain finance fund, managed by Greensill, an audited annual report from 2019 shows. Westford is also listed as an obligor in portfolio details published in April this year.

Red flags had been raised about Westford’s relationship with Gupta’s Liberty trading group as far back as 2015, according to an external due diligence report commissioned on behalf of an insurance company and seen by GTR.

That report includes correspondence suggesting Westford employees deliberately concealed the involvement of Gupta-owned Liberty in certain trade transactions.

In one example, presented as a metals trade brokered by Liberty in 2014, Westford’s chief executive requests that accompanying documentation makes “no mention anywhere of liberty please…not as sender not as dhl account etc [sic]”.

The transaction involved the sale of iron to Simec, also part of Gupta’s GFG Alliance.

In another example, an email seen by the report’s authors in 2016 but not reproduced in the report suggests that an unpaid invoice for US$2.5mn issued by Liberty was hidden by Westford staff from another company director.

According to the report, an email cited that director’s “blood pressure” as the reason for concealing the invoice. Former Westford employees told the authors that was “a regular practice with regards to Liberty”.

Reports generated by Westford’s accounts department would also avoid mentioning Liberty as a customer with outstanding debts, the report adds.

Other red flags cited include Westford continuing to do business with two companies in 2015 despite earlier employee suspicions over forged documents and fake trades. Those two companies are not presented as linked to GFG.

Representatives from Westford Limited could not be reached by GTR over email or through LinkedIn. Multiple calls to offices in London, Dubai and New York went unanswered.

Sources familiar with the matter say Westford is widely understood to have provided financing for Liberty’s activities at the time covered by the report.

In an article published in April this year, Argus says Westford financed nickel trades between Liberty Commodities and steel producer Uttam Galva – whose founder was revealed by the Panama Papers to have ties to Liberty Commodities – that the publication says “make no sense in the context of Uttam Galva’s business”.

Argus has also revealed that Gupta’s Wyelands Bank financed uninsured receivables from Westford Trade Services.

The specialist metals publication says it has seen emails showing that Liberty Commodities’ chief executive Paul Francis arranged trades with Westford that were “seemingly independent of Liberty”.

The findings raise further questions over the integrity of firms financed by Greensill-arranged supply chain finance funds.

Other companies financed by the funds, listed in the 2019 annual report, include Agritrade and Phoenix Commodities, two traders that have since collapsed amid allegations of fraud.

Receivables from Gulf Petrochem, now known as GP Global, are also listed. The company is currently undergoing restructuring, with evidence emerging of allegedly irregular or fictitious trades.

Sources familiar with the transactions say the responsibility for supplying legitimate invoices ultimately lies with the trading companies themselves, and that Greensill was not obliged to check whether invoices were legitimate.

Representatives from Greensill and GFG Alliance declined to comment when approached by GTR.