Britain’s stolen Range Rovers and Rolls-Royces end up on the streets of Moscow as Putin’s cronies try to beat Ukraine war sanctions, police reveal

Britain’s stolen Range Rovers and Rolls-Royces end up on the streets of Moscow as Putin’s cronies try to beat Ukraine war sanctions, police reveal

Britain’s stolen luxury cars including Range Rovers and Rolls-Royces are ending up on the streets of Moscow thanks to criminal gangs supplying Kremlin elites.

Luxury cars are being smuggled out of the UK in shipping containers, disguised under false papers, usually headed for destinations in the Middle East, Africa or Asia.

Last year, Essex’s Police stolen vehicle intelligence unit intercepted more than 60 containers, carrying 240 cars worth around £13million.

The recent upsurge is likely due to the war in Ukraine which has triggered a swathe of Western sanctions against Russia.

Luxury cars are being smuggled out of the UK in shipping containers, disguised under false papers. A Rolls Royce discovered in a shopping container in January this year

One of the reasons so many cars are smuggled out of British ports is because only a tiny proportion of containers are ever checked. Undated photo from Essex Police of a high-valued car recovered in North Benfleet, Essex

As a result, Russian oligarchs are unable to buy Western luxuries through legitimate means so they bypass the sanctions by shipping vehicles to intermediate destinations and then sending them on to Russia, The Telegraph reported.

However, one of the reasons so many cars are smuggled out of British ports is because only a tiny proportion of containers are ever checked, according to the chairman of the National Association of Stolen Vehicle Examiners Iain McKinlay.

According to one industry estimate, fewer than five in every 100,000 containers leaving the UK are searched.

There are thought to be just four full-time police officers dedicated to checking containers at British ports across the whole country.

UK president of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) Mike Briggs said: ‘The sanctions are driving the need for cars and car parts in Russia very hard, and that desperation is part of the reason we are seeing more vehicles going out via the Middle East.

‘The black market there has always been rife, but now it is getting bigger because of the sanctions, because people still want their luxury cars and in fact, being able to still get them even now is actually likely to improve your status within Russia.’

According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, there was a 48 per cent increase in vehicle thefts in the year to the end of 2023. This is a rise from 72,000 incidents to 106,000.

Criminals usually get an order for a certain model of parts for a car from an overseas buyer.

Gangs then go hunting in big cities such as London or Manchester, break into a car, jam and remove any tracking devices before parking it up somewhere and waiting to see if anyone comes looking for it.

If no one comes looking, then the gangs strip the car for parts or ready it for export via a container that is loaded with metal goods to confuse X-ray scanners.

Then the car is usually shopped to locations such as Dubai or the Democratic Republic of Congo before being sent on to its final destination.

Criminals usually get an order for a certain model of parts for a car from an overseas buyer

Last year, Essex’s Police stolen vehicle intelligence unit intercepted more than 60 containers, carrying 240 cars worth around £13million. PC Phil Pentelow (left) and PC Paul Gerrish (right) from Essex Police’s Stolen Vehicle Intelligence Unit

A high value vehicle  discovered at North Benfleet on February 5 after a police investigation into organised car crime

A Rolls Royce Cullinan worth £250,000, an Aston Martin DB11 (pictured) valued at £70,000 and a Mercedes AMG GT valued at £40,000 at the scene

But criminals cannot be arrested for carrying equipment used to break into cars and prosecutions for attempting to smuggle or chop up the cars are few and far between.

A spokesman for the British Association of Ports told The Telegraph: ‘Border security and combating illicit trade falls to government agencies who take a risk-based and intelligence-led approach to checks.

‘This balances interests of legitimate trade and helps keep costs down for traders.

‘The ports industry is always open to constructive discussions about how we can continue to bear down on smuggling and organised crime, but this must be done in a proportionate manner.’

The Home Office said it was cracking down on the use of electronic devices used to steal vehicles by making it an offence to possess them through new laws in the Criminal Justice Bill.

A spokesman said: ‘We have made great progress in tackling vehicle crime, which is down 39 per cent since 2010.’

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