Car News

Crime syndicate smuggles 24 stolen cars from the UK to Uganda

Car theft is becoming more sophisticated as a recent case in the UK highlights. Twenty-four new cars were stolen from the UK and smuggled to Uganda…

CAR THEFT IS A NIGHTMARE for any owner of a modern, classic or desirable car. Now, £1 million ($A1.88 million) worth of stolen cars has been discovered in Uganda and repatriated to the UK from whence they originated.

The location of the 24 cars, including expensive Range Rovers, Audi Q7s and BMW X5s, in East Africa, was discovered last May after a stolen Lexus was traced across Europe, the Middle East and Africa Asset Protection Unit (APU) Ltd, to expose an international car theft ring. Many such groups are still operational in the UK with vehicles being stolen to order for customers in Cyprus, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The operation was the culmination of a unique public-private partnership between the National Crime Agency (NCA), National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS), Interpol and anti-motor fraud specialist, APU Ltd. 

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“Car key burglary”, where organised gangs target affluent areas stealing cars to order, is a significant issue in the estimated £1.3 billion ($A2.44 billion) motor fraud insurance problem according to the authorities. 

Criminal gangs have become astute at blocking conventional anti-theft tracking units leaving the insurance industry with increased risk and no alternative but to pass the costs on to the consumer with higher premiums.

Twelve insurers, including Admiral, Allianz, Aviva and Zenith, were victims of the Ugandan car ring.

The joint public-private operation is a first as the chances of a luxury vehicle being returned if shipped abroad are traditionally very slim.

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Covering nearly 20,000 miles in containers on their journey from London to Kampala and back, the vehicles eventually began their trip home from a warehouse near the Ugandan capital, through Kenya to a port in Oman by boat, and on to Mediterranean via the Suez Canal before reaching UK waters on Saturday 19th March 2016.

Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at APU Ltd, said: “This case is a feather in the cap for APU and its forensic capabilities, but it’s also very pleasing that all parties involved were able to achieve some tangible success despite being led thousands of miles across the world in what was considered an impossible task by the Police. One of the insurers involved had simply given up.

“This is the first time such an operation has been run involving this level of International and cross agency co-operation and it is a real example of how private industry, leading edge technology and expertise can assist law enforcement. It sets the template for future operations targeting organised criminals intent on stealing mobile assets.”

Paul Murrell

Paul Murrell

Paul’s mother knew he was a car nut when, aged three, he could identify oncoming cars from their engine note alone. By 10, he had decided what his first car would be and begun negotiations with a bank to arrange finance, the first of many expensive automotive mistakes. These days, he is happy to drive other people’s cars (on the road, off the road or on the track) and write up what’s good about them and what isn’t.