Seven questioned over pounds 12m luxury car thefts

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The Independent Online
SEVEN MEN were being questioned last night by detectives from Scotland Yard's stolen car squad investigating a pounds 12m car theft ring involving several hundred top of the range Mercedes cars.

Scotland Yard said that it was liaising with police in Malaysia, where the stolen cars had been shipped over the past two years. The ring is believed to be one of the biggest and best organised car theft operations broken by police.

Following lengthy investigations, the seven people arrested were detained at a number of addresses in east London. All are believed to work in the car sales business.

Scotland Yard said that a large quantity of documents and other evidence was seized during the operation, but no vehicles. Those arrested were being held at Edmonton police station in north London.

According to police sources, the cars involved were exclusively top of the range Mercedes models in the 200 and 500 series, which can cost between pounds 20,000 to pounds 50,000, stolen from private addresses and dealers in London and the Home Counties over the last couple of years.

The inquiry began after the arrest of a man last year who was in possession of a list of registration numbers. Investigations suggested that the gang were stealing the vehicles and, in what appears to be a classic 'ringing' operation, changing the registration and chassis numbers to match those which had already been exported. Mercedes cars can fetch up to double their value in parts of the Far East.

The Driver and Vehicles Licensing Centre in Swansea is believed to have changed procedures as a result of loopholes exposed by the inquiry.

Stolen car squad detectives have identified a number of similar ringing operations in the United Kingdom over the past few years, involving top of the range cars.