Be warned! Your luxury car may have been stolen in the UK
Luxury cars worth an estimated Sh 64 trillion (£400 million) a year are being stolen from the UK and shipped to unknowing wealthy businessmen and women in Kenya and other East African countries, according to British police.
A report in The Independent newspaper in the UK said that British police and their East African partners seized stolen UK cars worth more than £1m in Uganda in June alone.
It said that the record haul had revealed how organised criminal networks were stealing high-value British vehicles to order and shipping them overseas, in an established supply line that police warn is getting worse.
“We began to see an increase in the number of cars being stolen last autumn,” Paul Stanfield, regional manager for east and southern Africa in the Intelligence and Operations Directorate of the UK’s National Crime Agency, told The Independent.
“A conservative estimate of the total value of motor vehicles stolen across England and Wales in the first three months of 2015 is around £100m, although not all are exported.”
The luxury cars including Lexus, Audis and Range Rovers are being hidden in containers shipped to East Africa often disguised as furniture. Others make their way across the European continent to the Middle East where they are shipped from Oman.
Many buyers in Kenya and Uganda are unaware that the cars they are buying are stolen, the report says. The vehicles are sold with what appear to be legal documents but have either been faked or acquired through corruption amongst government officials.
The recent major haul in Uganda came only after police followed a high-tech tracking device on a Lexus RX450. The Lexus’ journey showed the complexity of the network and the complicity of some officials, the report said. It too had been transported across Europe via Oman and then shipped to Mombasa.
Police tracked the Lexus as it was transported overland from Mombasa across the Ugandan border to Kampala. At some point on this last leg, the Lexus became a legal entity again and was transferred to a bonded warehouse controlled by the Uganda Revenue Authority.
The Independent says that UK police have been working with their Ugandan counterparts to have the vehicles repatriated to Britain.
“We previously didn’t have the law enforcement efforts to understand these syndicates,” Asan Kasingye, assistant inspector general of Police and director for Interpol and International Relations in Uganda, told The Independent.
“Across East Africa, the problem is big. I believe we would also find vehicles stolen from the UK in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Sudan, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo where law enforcement is limited.
“We are dealing with very well-organised syndicates, transporters and people within our system who register vehicles. We need cooperation across the region [and] with colleagues in the UK.”