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Report: Sumitomo Manager Signed Off on Major Copper Trades

July 5, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two commodities brokers who dealt with the central figure in the Sumitomo Corp. copper scandal, Yasuo Hamanaka, say senior Sumitomo officials approved some of Hamanaka’s biggest copper trades, according to a published report Friday.

The brokers’ statements raise questions about whether Hamanaka indeed acted without management’s knowledge in racking up a $1.8 billion loss in copper trading over a 10-year period.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ashley Levett and Charles Vincent, cofounders of London-based Winchester Commodities Group, said in an interview that Akio Imamura, Hamanaka’s boss, approved what was believed to be Hamanaka’s largest single purchase of copper. The 1993 deal, code-named Radr, may have been worth more than $2.8 billion, the newspaper said.

Hamanaka dealt heavily with Levett and Vincent’s firm, with Sumitomo accounting for 40 percent of Winchester’s brokerage business. They have since stepped down from active management at the firm.

The enormous copper transaction, a purchase of more than 1 million metric tons of the metal over two years, helped increase copper prices and also drew the interest of regulators.

``It was a transaction that emanated from Sumitomo, and it was a transaction signed off by a member of the board of Sumitomo Corporation in the presence of Credit Lyonnais Rouse and Winchester,″ Levett said, referring to the French financial services giant.

Levett added that Credit Lyonnais Rouse’s parent in Paris also had contacts with senior Sumitomo officials in Tokyo with respect to Mr. Hamanaka’s trading.

A Sumitomo spokesman in New York wasn’t immediately available to comment on the report Friday. But the newspaper reported that spokesman Walter Montgomery said the company is standing by its position that ``the activities that led to these losses were unauthorized.″ He declined further comment pending completion of Sumitomo’s own investigation. Hamanaka’s whereabouts are unknown and Credit Lyonnais declined comment.

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