Hun­dreds scammed in cheap car racket

Sec­ond-hand ve­hi­cle scam ex­posed; many now with­out wheels

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By MPUMZI ZUZILE

● If it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is.

That is the hard les­son hun­dreds of gullible mo­torists have learnt af­ter buy­ing cheap sec­ond-hand cars, only to have them con­fis­cated be­cause they have been il­le­gally im­ported and fraud­u­lently reg­is­tered.

Since Novem­ber, po­lice, the State Se­cu­rity Agency and the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice have been clamp­ing down on the es­ti­mated 20,000 ve­hi­cles that are il­le­gally reg­is­tered and sold in SA ev­ery year. These were shipped to the coun­try and were also en route to neigh­bour­ing states.

It is be­lieved the ve­hi­cles — sec­ond-hand and mostly from China — were in­ter­cepted at ports by a crim­i­nal syn­di­cate be­fore they could be loaded onto trucks. They are then fraud­u­lently reg­is­tered on the eNatis ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem and sold to un­sus­pect­ing buy­ers.

Komga pen­sioner No­mawabo Mtyapi, 68, lost her life sav­ings when she bought a 2017 Volk­swa­gen Touran last Fe­bru­ary for R120,000. The car usu­ally sells for around R290,000.

Mtyapi’s daugh­ter in­tro­duced her to a car dealer named Prince Bad­mus, who sold her the seven-seater ve­hi­cle.

“I used my en­tire sav­ings and money I in­her­ited from the pass­ing of my daugh­ter to pur­chase the ve­hi­cle,” said Mtyapi.

In Oc­to­ber she was vis­ited by two po­lice of­fi­cers who con­fis­cated the car, telling her it had been fraud­u­lently reg­is­tered.

“I called Prince and he de­nied the car was fraud­u­lently reg­is­tered. He promised me my car was com­ing back, but he has since been ig­nor­ing our calls,” Mtyapi said.

“I have now re­sorted to us­ing taxis and my grand­chil­dren are suf­fer­ing due to this.”

An­other vic­tim, Nom­pumelelo Jaji, used a life in­sur­ance pay­out to buy a 2017 Toy­ota Yaris. Her ve­hi­cle was seized by po­lice in Oc­to­ber. Jaji paid R60,000 for her car, which would or­di­nar­ily sell for about R170,000.

“I bought this car from a for­eign na­tional named Ola. I used the car for my busi­ness,” Jaji said.

Na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Brig Vishnu Naidoo said hun­dreds of peo­ple coun­try­wide had been fleeced.

“Im­port­ing used ve­hi­cles into SA is only al­lowed in ex­cep­tional cases. For ex­am­ple, to im­mi­grants with per­ma­nent res­i­dence and res­i­dents re­turn­ing to SA,” Naidoo said. How­ever, most neigh­bour­ing coun­tries re­lied on pas­sage through SA for their im­ports, which in­cluded used ve­hi­cles.

Naidoo said any­one who bought an il­le­gal ve­hi­cle would have no le­gal re­course.

A mem­ber of the task team, who did not want to be named, said po­lice had con­fis­cated more than 300 ve­hi­cles in the Eastern Cape alone since June. He could not give a na­tional fig­ure.

“SA and China have a bi­lat­eral agree­ment. A des­ig­nated area at the Dur­ban port is made avail­able for these ve­hi­cles. They are then loaded into trucks des­tined for Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zim­babwe and Mozam­bique. [How­ever, some] are in­ter­cepted at the har­bour, reg­is­tered il­le­gally through eNatis, and sold to un­sus­pect­ing buy­ers,” he said.

The source said the ve­hi­cles mostly came in through the Dur­ban har­bour.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is two-pronged — we are look­ing at how they get the ve­hi­cles through cus­toms with­out the author­i­ties know­ing, as well as how the ve­hi­cles get reg­is­tered on the eNatis sys­tem.”

Mot­samai Mollo, chair of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ing of SA’s ve­hi­cle crime pre­ven­tion com­mit­tee, said he was con­cerned about the num­ber of il­le­gally im­ported ve­hi­cles be­cause they un­der­mined the new and used car mar­ket in SA, and im­pacted neg­a­tively on em­ploy­ment.

“We es­ti­mate that the num­ber of il­le­gal ve­hi­cle im­ports is up­wards of 20,000 per year,” Mollo said.

Con­tacted by the Sun­day Times, Bad­mus, a Con­golese na­tional, con­firmed sell­ing the ve­hi­cle to Mtyapi. He said he had bought the ve­hi­cle from an­other Con­golese and did not know it was il­le­gal.

Asked if he was pre­pared to give a state­ment to po­lice, Bad­mus replied “I en­ter nowhere” be­fore threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion and end­ing the call.

Ola, who would not give his sur­name, said he had given the po­lice a state­ment. He said he had sold the car to Jali on be­half of some­one else.

“The ve­hi­cle was reg­is­tered. It is not my prob­lem that it has been con­fis­cated.”

Sars spokesper­son Sicelo Mkosi said the tax au­thor­ity had de­stroyed a num­ber of il­le­gal ve­hi­cles as part of a clam­p­down on non­com­pli­ance in var­i­ous cus­toms sec­tors.

“Pre­vi­ously, the seized sec­ond-hand im­ported ve­hi­cles were sold at cus­toms auc­tion for ex­port. But these ve­hi­cles in­vari­ably found their way back into SA.”

He said 317 ve­hi­cles had been for­feited to the state this fi­nan­cial year.

I have now re­sorted to us­ing taxis and my grand­chil­dren are suf­fer­ing No­mawabo Mtyapi

Pen­sioner caught in the scam

Nom­pumelelo Jaji with her Toy­ota Yaris that turned out to be il­le­gal.

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