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Luxury cars worth an estimated £400 million a year are stolen from the UK and shipped to unknowing wealthy people across East Africa, according to British police.
A report in the UK’s Independent newspaper says British police and their East African partners seized stolen UK cars worth more than £1 millionin Uganda in June alone.
It says the record haul had revealed how organised criminal networks were stealing high-value British vehicles and shipping them overseas.
“We began to see an increase in the number of cars being stolen last autumn,” Mr Paul Stanfield, the 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 £100 million, although not all are exported.”
The cars including Lexus, Audis and Range Rovers are 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.
The recent haul in Uganda came only after police followed a high-tech tracking device on a Lexus RX450. The car’s journey showed the complexity of the network and the complicity of some officials, the report says. It too had been transported across Europe via Oman and then shipped to Mombasa.
“We previously didn’t have the law enforcement efforts to understand these syndicates,” Asan Kasingye, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police and director for Interpol 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.”
– The EastAfrican