£3m car gang smashed

Satch

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London's most prolific car theft gang has been smashed.

Police estimate they stole 1,000 cars valued at about £3.5 million in only six months.

Their favourite car was the Mercedes Benz. Thieves simply used low-lifter trucks to move the cars out of their parking spaces, often outside the owner's home

The cars were then taken to salvage yards in Essex where they were broken up and the parts shipped to West Africa in containers and rebuilt as taxis.

The scale of the operation astonished detectives. The gang moved around the North Circular stripping areas of Mercedes cars. The vehicles had often been broken up before the owners reported them missing.

The group targeted E class Mercedes made before 1996 because they were not equipped with the latest security alarm systems.

Officers from Scotland Yard's stolen vehicle unit arrested 18 people in eight car salvage yards in Essex yesterday. They were arrested for conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles and money laundering and are being interviewed at a number of police stations today.

The arrests came after police intercepted two container shipments at Tilbury Docks containing parts from 38 different stolen Mercedes.

The raids, codenamed Operation Resolution, were carried out in co-operation with Essex police and Customs investigators.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Mawer, the head of the Met's economic & specialist crime unit, said: "This was a very efficient business. They were able to take the cars off the street, break them down and get them out of the country very quickly." Police believe they used specially-adapted tools allowing them to carry out the thefts with the minimum of damage.

The majority of the thefts took place in residential streets close to arterial routes allowing them an easy getaway.

The Mercedes E class is believed to have taken over from the Peugeot 505 as the so-called "African taxi" after the Peugeots were discontinued.

Normally around 45 per cent of stolen cars are recovered, often because they are stolen for joy riding. In this case just five per cent of the stolen Mercedes were found.

The raids come as the Met is launching a separate operation to target unregistered motor salvage yards in London.

Under new legislation anyone with a criminal conviction is barred from running a salvage yard and police are acting to enforce the law. Mr Mawer said: "We are committed to removing unlicensed motor salvage operators which will reduce the opportunity for the disposal of stolen vehicles
 

racall

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My bet is Ferry lane Rainham,there used to be lots of breakers there!
 

glojo

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The Police down here have now fitted out a 'honey trap' vehicle bristling with modern technology that is designed to send both a signal carrying video and location details.

John
 

jonw2000

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Beware: they are still operating

My 300CE-24 was nicked last Wed, from South Woodford - just next to South Circular :(
 

janner

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I didn't think coupes would be as likely to go (who wants a two door taxi?). Obviously not. Maybe taken for parts?
 

jonw2000

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Most are taken for parts

Almost all I think - they all get broken down and shipped out in containers. The parts are more valuable than the whole I think - seems strange I know.
 

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