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At 4.30pm on a clear spring afternoon, Shellie Rhodes, a lawyer and a young mother of two, was returning home in her Audi Q7. Nearly all the cars they target are black: the vogue for African gangsters and politicians alike. British police officer Detective Constable Vince Wise, a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair, works for the Association of Chief Police Officersa€™ Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS).
A forged South African log booka€?At every step palms are greased,a€™ he says, as we drive round the vast mountains of containers on the docks.
He is head of the Vehicle Task Force part of the Hawks, an elite South African police unit tackling organised crime. Sifiso began to gain notoriety around Johannesburg as a man who could make stolen cars vanish. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Cycle Pros stocks an unbelievable selection of used Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Dinli, Duncan, Cannondale, Arctic Cat, and custom ATVs. At our Bridgewater, MA location, Cycle Pros has dozens of used Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki dirt bikes. Even if you are not looking for an all terain vehicle or a dirt bike, Cycle Pros Salvage has you covered for all parts and accessories. Copyright © 2012 Autos Post, All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners. By clicking Confirm bid, you commit to buy this item from the seller if you are the winning bidder.
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She lived in the upmarket village of Church Langton in Leicestershire, a virtually crime-free area.
Thieves were dispatched to the address.Two Pakistani men visited Burtona€™s home, while a third parked 500 yards away on a side street. We meet on the docks in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where hea€™s investigating the trade in stolen British cars.a€?The scale of vehicle crime is changing,a€™ he says. The people the team are up against are often immigrants from neighbouring countries who have military experience from Africaa€™s endless wars.
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They stole the car during a test drive, asking Burton to get out and investigate a rattle in the boot and steaming off down the road when he got out. Lieberman leads a six-man team that works out of a warehouse facility near to Johannesburg Airport. Hea€™d pay police to draw up false affidavits to say the owner gave permission for the vehicle to be driven over the border. Our used all terrain vehicles are inspected and repaired as needed, making our entire stock ready to hit the trail.
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As she parked the Audi and stepped out on the neat, semi-circular driveway, a man in a black ski mask galloped towards her from the idling Astra.a€?Give me the keys or youa€™ll get hurt,a€™ he screamed. Hea€™d hire white couriers to drive cars over the border a€“ a€?with whites, no one thinks the car is stolena€™.
You cana€™t make more money quicker than you can with stolen cars.a€™British cars, once in South Africa, enter a complex web of corruption. Hea€™d pay off border police and would wait until they came on shift and then drive a convoy of stolen cars through.

There, the thieves changed their number plates, then loaded them into containers bound for Africa. The first stage is a€?ringinga€™ or changing the carsa€™ identity; the final stage involves handing vehicles to couriers who drive them out of the country. Once they were in Mozambique other contacts would re-register them, often with fake engine and chassis numbers, and the cars could be made to disappear. So while police were left scratching their heads over the apparently unlinked thefts, the cars were out at sea, on ships carrying countless identical-looking containers between the UK and the South African ports of Durban and Port Elizabeth.Over the past decade, vehicle anti-theft devices have become so effective thieves can no longer make off with your car by hot-wiring it. First, criminal syndicates pay off corrupt customs officials when they bring in the cars through the docks. They can make 6,000 rand (A?500) for a vehicle, which is an awful lot of money in the township.
And a€“ like many similarly desirable cars stolen from Britons in very similar circumstances a€“ the Q7 began its long journey to a place quite unlike Church Langton: it was heading for Kampala, Uganda. In January 2011 police officer Johan Nortje, 51, was murdered on the driveway of his home by hitmen employed by smuggling syndicates. A few days after the Audi theft, Surrey fireman Paul Burton advertised his year-old BMW X5 on the Auto Trader website. In 2010, around 20 per cent of the 120,000 cars stolen in Britain were the result of key burglaries.Car thieves today are international syndicates who not only pay local toughs to burgle and hijack but also have the connections and expertise to dispatch their goods abroad for sale in countries like Zimbabwe or Uganda. Hea€™s creating the market, buying hijacked cars or imported stolen cars, but he has political influence and is protected. He wasna€™t to know that a source in Africa was scouring the online classifieds looking for black BMW 4x4s, cars that are easy to sell in any one of a number of nearby countries.
Big trucks and 4x4s end up ferried to feed massive demand in any one of Africaa€™s numerous wars. Nortje had been disrupting smuggling routes into Durban, the largest container port in Africa and the busiest in the southern hemisphere.But Nortje was an anomaly, says Captain Digby Thomas, who works closely with the British police in tracking down car syndicates. Everything feeds into this furnace of stolen cars.a€™The police work is underpaid and dangerous. As trucks are shot to pieces or blown up there is an insatiable demand for new vehicles from which to fight. The depot at their base is full of cars riddled with bullet holes after hijackers refused to be caught. Libya at present, according to detectives, is being flooded with stolen cars which are used by the rebels.A  And the hub of this trade is South Africa, a country whose violent car hijackings have spawned an underworld industry in stolen vehicles, where slick teams expertly take care of various stages of the process. A slightly built man with bloodshot eyes and a drooping, thready moustache ushers us into his home where his wife and daughters make us dinner. All members of the team have had death threats against them.a€?These people are serious,a€™ says Lieberman. On a cold autumn morning, DC Vince Wise, along with a unit of South African cops from Hawks, drives along the coastal road to a police depot. Pakistani syndicates with family and connections in the UK a€“ and links to Al Qaeda a€“ who steal cars are exporting them to Pakistani contacts in South Africa. Beyond high walls topped with razor wire and a gate manned by armed police is a fortified warehouse. Detectives are following the money trail, which leads back to terrorist groups in Pakistan. The document says the car is a 2002 model and worth only A?1,500, which would arouse much less suspicion from port police.
We arrive at a dilapidated three-storey building which declares itself a panel-beating business.
Along one wall is a stash worth A?1 million, a line of black Range Rovers, BMWs and other high-end vehicles covered in a patina of dust.
A sullen, Pakistani youth in a traditional Muslim cap scowls from behind a steel shutter as policeA  officers fill the doorway.
Wea€™ll leave the cars in containers, perhaps for several months, until they cool off.a€™The next stage is to transform an illegal, stolen car into a legitimate one. Cars are driven in at the ground floor and an interior elevator takes them to subsequent floors above where they are worked on. Instead, they simply steal a similar car and etch all the chassis and vehicle identity numbers (VIN) from the crashed car on to the stolen one. They apply a special chemical that brings up engine numbers that haveA  been ground out and restamped.

Wise has forged a partnership with the South Africa Hawks and it is they who intercepted the shipment of 18 stolen cars bound for Uganda. Or, chop shops will take a blowtorch to the quarters of the car with the VIN and chassis number and weld these parts into the stolen car. The only damage to the Range Rovers is some torn panels in the boot where the thieves have ripped out the upholstery looking for tracking devices. The police depot is heavily guarded because sometimes armed thieves will attempt to re-steal them. Ita€™s not so much a panel-beaters as a 24-hour production line with a team of Pakistanis working round the clock. I get new registration papers for it and it looks like ita€™s been here all along.a€™ All trace of the country of origin has been removed. He and his daughter Tina were on a remote private road visiting a property they were renovating in Newnham, Northamptonshire. Sifiso, as Ia€™ll call him, is a softly spoken man with a caramel-coloured complexion dressed in a mauve open-necked shirt. After I convince him that I am not police, making clear my contact with his lawyer through an intermediary, he begins to spill his story.
Sifiso had one dream: to escape the poverty of Maputo in Mozambique, where he lived in a shack with his family.
They left the engine in the Range Rover running, thinking that because they were on private property, in a remote location, it would be no problem. A thief who had been stalking them jumped out of a hedgerow and got behind the wheel just as Tina returned to the car, ahead of her father. He wandered Johannesburg, amazed at the ubiquitous BMWs and Mercedes driven by affluent, white South Africans.
Someone steals my car I shoot them.a€™ Just beyond slums built on old mine waste, housing immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Somalia in ramshackle lean-tos, is a gritty industrial wasteland. He got a succession of jobs including welding and printing but was frustrated at the A?50-a-week salary.
DC Wise points to the struggle he faces taking on international criminal syndicates while vehicle crime squads are being reorganised, and in April this year the Home Office withdrew funding for the Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service.a€?For criminals ita€™s seen as a low-risk crime,a€™ says DC Wise.
From underworld informants we know that a premises is operating as a chop shop, or at least a receiver for stolen cars, where the identities are changed before they are moved out of the country.a€?We never tell the local police we are going out on an operation,a€™ says Colonel Lieberman from the front seat of the lead car on the raid. Shortly after he cloned it: he spotted an identical car, stole the number plate, which he affixed to the stolen one, and then changed the VIN number.
Freight companies areA  reluctant to question too closely their customers given the millions of containers that leave British ports each day. He drove it over the border to Mozambique and made a quick A?1,800, selling it to an Indian businessman.But with modern anti-theft devices it became harder to steal cars.
With cars coming under numerous jurisdictions, from the police to the customs, Border Agency and registrationA  authorities in different countries, the problem is likely never to end. As the thieves use increasing violence, terroristsa€™ coffers swell and British motorists find themselves in crippling debt.A  With Government cutbacks in funding to AVCIS it is predicted that car-crime rates a€“ having dropped in recent years a€“ will start to creep up again. With the key, really onlyA  possible by breaking into a house or hijacking, they were worth about A?1,250.
Consequently more money will be funnelled into organised crime and financing terrorism, and the more vehicle crime in developing countries will thrive.
They moved with aggressive alacrity, wearing balaclavas and masks and brandishing 9mm handguns. Ita€™s about income disparity; to get a Range Rover in Mombasa is like a local there winning the lottery seven weekends in a row. Their routine was to force the driver out at gunpoint, search their victims for weapons and then blaze away.
Sifiso sped off in the car, his accomplice chasing after him on foot, desperately trying to get in.
He drove his friend back to Mozambique where he was given a traditional car thiefa€™s funeral, with shots fired in the air, spinning cars doing burnouts and rivers of booze.

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