(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s largest business, the oil company Orlen SA, set out a more detailed account of how it says its Swiss-based trading unit managed to lose almost $400 million purchasing oil that never materialized.

The majority of the losses were attributed to a deal to buy crude from Venezuela, representatives of Orlen’s Swiss unit’s senior management told reporters in Warsaw on Tuesday. The advance money for the deal started from December and the ships were supposed to be loaded in December and January.

Orlen hired six tankers to collect the barrels, racking up more than $30 million in waiting fees — known as demurrage — by the time new management had been hired and the deals got unwound. They were never fully loaded.

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The new management sought to contact the middlemen, but didn’t get what it deemed a real response.

The fact that US sanctions were set to be reimposed on Venezuela created an urgency to deal with the situation. Termination of the cargo purchases were necessary so that Orlen could end the ship charters, which were costing the company $600,000 a day in demurrage.

Orlen was concerned that buyers of the barrels would push to negotiate lower prices once the reimposition of sanctions was getting near — or even that they wouldn’t want to buy it at all. 

The Polish company set an end-March deadline to complete the transactions and be able to sell the oil. That didn’t happen so it canceled 5 charters and is working to cancel the last one.

The deals were done with several companies. One of them was headed by a 25-year old citizen of China, which was among the biggest beneficiaries of the pre- payments.

The representative asked not to be named in line with company policy.

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