How your pride and joy is in­creas­ingly likely to be stolen – and why there’s lit­tle chance of it be­ing re­cov­ered if it goes abroad

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Front Page - Mur­ray Scul­lion

Car theft spe­cial­ists are warn­ing Bri­tish clas­sic own­ers that their prized ve­hi­cles face a new threat from or­gan­ised crim­i­nals. There’s an in­creas­ing risk that they could be stolen and shipped over­seas – with al­most no chance of get­ting them back.

A re­cent meet­ing be­tween The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Auto Theft In­ves­ti­ga­tors (IAATI) and In­ter­pol re­vealed that more clas­sics are be­ing stolen and taken abroad in con­tain­ers. And there are some coun­tries, es­pe­cially in Africa, that are un­will­ing to co-op­er­ate in send­ing them back.

For­mer Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice stolen ve­hi­cle squad boss Dr Ken Ger­man says: ‘Stolen clas­sics from Bri­tain have been found on ev­ery con­ti­nent. Routes into east­ern Europe and Africa are very ac­tive.’

Many ex­perts are sug­gest­ing it’s a ques­tion of eco­nom­ics: ship­ping con­tain­ers can be bought for £1000 to £1500, and have been found to hold more than £500,000 worth of ve­hi­cle parts. In many in­stances, these con­tain­ers are not be­ing checked.

Freight for­warders have been crit­cised for not meet­ing cus­tomers and ask­ing for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

‘Bri­tish sea­ports han­dle thou­sands of con­tain­ers. They can’t all be checked’

Alead­ing body of auto theft spe­cial­ists is warn­ing Brits that their prized clas­sics could be stolen and shipped abroad with no chance of get­ting them back.

The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Auto Theft In­ves­ti­ga­tors (IAATI), the or­gan­i­sa­tion for pro­fes­sion­als in­volved in the pre­ven­tion and de­tec­tion of ve­hi­cle crime, has been work­ing with In­ter­pol to tackle ‘ram­pant’ car thefts.

A re­cent meet­ing be­tween the two re­vealed that clas­sics were be­ing stolen and shipped abroad, with some coun­tries es­pe­cially in Africa un­will­ing to co-op­er­ate in send­ing them back. Ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tions, some crim­i­nals don’t nec­es­sar­ily want clas­sics as whole cars, but want high-value items, like parts, that can be eas­ily stripped down and resold.

For­mer Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Stolen Ve­hi­cle Squad boss Dr Ken Ger­man is the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for IAATI. He says: ‘Stolen clas­sics from Bri­tain have been found on ev­ery con­ti­nent. The routes into east­ern Europe and Africa have been very ac­tive of late.

‘The cars are usu­ally driven or re­moved by trailer by the thieves, made eas­ier by the fact that the thefts are usu­ally not dis­cov­ered by the own­ers for days if not weeks af­ter the theft has taken place.’

In re­cent years, 500 ve­hi­cles some of which were clas­sic Mi­nis and Land Rovers, cur­rently very pop­u­lar in the USA, were ex­ported to Amer­ica in con­tain­ers and were found by po­lice work­ing on ‘Op­er­a­tion At­lantic’ to have their iden­ti­ties al­tered.

The cars stolen from many Euro­pean coun­tries were brought into the UK and were then shipped by con­tainer to the USA via Felixs­towe and Southamp­ton.

Mem­ber coun­tries at the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence re­port that there is a sig­nif­i­cant rise in the use of ship­ping con­tain­ers to transport stolen clas­sics. Many peo­ple sug­gested this was down to price. A 20ft or 40ft ship­ping con­tainer can cost from £1000 to £1500 to buy and each can hold sev­eral cars, nu­mer­ous mo­tor­cy­cles, plant equip­ment and up to £500,000 worth of parts if ve­hi­cles are stripped be­fore load­ing.

It is claimed that few freight for­warders meet the cus­tomers or ask for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Ship­ping in­struc­tions are de­lib­er­ately vague, declar­ing sim­ply ‘ house­hold goods’ or ‘spare parts’ on the man­i­fests.

The UK has 41 op­er­at­ing ports han­dling an es­ti­mated 9000 con­tainer move­ments ev­ery day. Felixs­towe, Dover, Southamp­ton and Portsmouth have been iden­ti­fied as four of the main exit routes used by or­gan­ised groups of clas­sic car crim­i­nals.

Ian Mathe­son, head of public re­la­tions for the Bri­tish In­ter­na­tional Freight As­so­ci­a­tion says the prob­lem is with the in­di­vid­ual for­warders and ports, and not its mem­ber freight for­warders. He says: ‘Com­pa­nies signed up to the BIFA have to ad­here to our stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures. All of our mem­bers would have to see a V5 for them to go ahead with any for­ward­ing.

‘A ma­jor prob­lem lies with peo­ple do­ing it them­selves. Some com­pa­nies aren’t as con­sci­en­tious as the ones that be­long the BIFA. It’s easy enough to call up a haulage com­pany, get them to load your “con­tainer of fridges” and off you go. Some­where like Folke­stone has thou­sands of con­tain­ers go­ing in and out a month. They can’t all pos­si­bly be checked.’

Ship­ping con­tain­ers cost be­tween £1000-1500 and can store up to £500,000worth of stolen gear.

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