Luxury car theft gang smashed in Europe-wide police operation

Cars were loaded into containers for export abroad Image copyright Spanish Guardia Civil
Image caption Cars were loaded into containers for export abroad

Police in Europe say they have smashed an international organised crime gang that stole and trafficked luxury cars across Europe and North Africa.

Forces from Italy, Spain and Belgium made 28 arrests and searched 29 locations in Italy and Spain, a statement said.

The gang's key players were identified as Italian and Moroccan.

They collaborated with a vast network of associates across the EU in a sophisticated operation, police say.

Authorities seized some 40 cars, an estimated value of €3m (£2.54m, $3.37m), according to Italian police.

Computers, fake IDs, and €25,000 (£21,200; $28,100) of counterfeit money were also recovered.

Investigations into the gang began in Italy in 2015 after multiple reports from victims whose cars had been stolen. Italian authorities identified patterns in the crimes and links to incidents in other countries.

Separate investigations were carried out in Belgium and Spain.

How were the cars stolen?

  • Data about the car's owner was obtained through the Italian Public Vehicles Registry
  • Counterfeit documents were created in Spain to match the owners
  • The counterfeit documents were then brought to the original car dealership so that a copy of the car keys could be obtained
  • Vehicles were then stolen and could be exported at ports
  • After the car was stolen, forged license plates and insurance cards were created to evade police

The operation was coordinated by EU law enforcement agency Europol and Eurojust, the EU body that coordinates investigations.

Eurojust spokesperson, Ms Teresa Angela Camelio, said: "[The] action clearly demonstrates that the most sophisticated international criminal schemes can be dismantled thanks to excellent judicial and police cooperation at EU level."

Image copyright Spanish Guardia Civil
Image caption Spanish police confiscated computers, fake IDs and phones
Image copyright Spanish Guardia Civil
Image caption Six suspects were arrested in Spain