National Post

18 arrested in Toronto in global car theft ring

Believed to be tied to the Nigeria-based Black Axe gang

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• Toronto police said they made a dent in a significan­t global car theft ring after arresting 18 people and laying 640 charges in a series of city-wide raids.

The organizati­on, which allegedly lifted $30-million-worth of high-end vehicles from residentia­l driveways throughout the year, is believed to be tied to the Nigeria- based Black Axe criminal organizati­on, police said.

Acting Deputy Chief James Ramer said the arrests, which have “significan­tly degraded” the Toronto ring, could have an impact beyond the city limits.

“There is absolutely no doubt that organized crime enterprise­s such as the Black Axe use the proceeds of these types of property crimes to further fund and grow their illegal e-nterprises,” Ramer told a news con ference.

“And in this case those illegal enterprise­s are often offshore.”

Police said the i nvestigati­on dubbed Project CBG got underway in April of this year after a rash of car t-hefts from some of the city’s more af fluent neighbourh­oods.

Police allege high- end vehicles s-uch as Lexuses and Acuras were dis a-ppearing from driveways in the mid dle of the night as the owners slept, sometimes mere days after the cars had been purchased. Some homes were targeted multiple times, police added.

Ramer alleged the ring managed t-o make off with about 500 sport util i-ty vehicles throughout the year, ac counting for 10 to 15 per cent of total car thefts in the Toronto area for 2015.

Many of those cars were shipped to Africa via the ports of Halifax and Montreal.

S- taff Insp. Mike Earl said the or g- anization had a particular­ly so phisticate­d mode of operation.

T- hieves allegedly began by steal ing the keys of new vehicles as they arrived in the city en route to the dealership­s where they were to be sold, but Earl said the technique changed over time.

H-e alleged the organizati­on shift ed to photograph­ing vehicle identifica­tion numbers and key codes. He said this informatio­n was then used to look up informatio­n about the new car owners and where they lived.

P-olice said one of the 18 people ar r- ested in Thursday’s raids is an em p- loyee of Service-Ontario, a provin cial body involved in issuing vehicle registrati­ons.

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