FRESH THEFT THREAT FOR CLASSIC CARS
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
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.