Police bust a gang of luxury car thieves

Filed on October 7, 2004

DUBAI — Three luxury car thieves are in police custody in Dubai following one of the most complex cases ever investigated by the Dubai Police, a senior CID officer said yesterday.

However, two other men belonging to the same “highly professional and quick handed” gang are still at large.

The arrests of Mikola Q., Andre Z. and Andrian K. followed an intensive investigation and time-consuming procedures.

after a number of residents and visitors reported to police that their luxury vehicles had disappeared from the spot where they had been parked.

“It is an international group of gangsters, in the sense that they used a new method to carry out their crimes,” the police official told reporters.

They only stole 4-WD Toyota Lexus cars. The official said a dangerous phenomenon surfaced in recent months involving luxury 4-WD cars being stolen from various places in the emirate. A total of 13 cars were reported stolen by their owners.

The Al Muraggabat police station received three complaints in January and August, the Al Rifa police station received three in February, March and June, the Bur Dubai police station received four complaints in February, March, April and June, the Al Rashidiyah police station received two complaints in March and April and the Naif police station received one in July. All the cars were Lexus but of different colours and model.

“The cars disappeared without a trace whatsoever. We had so many calls from the owners, and this put a lot pressure on the investigation team to step up their efforts and speed up the investigation to find the car thieves,” said Brig. Al Mazainah.

One of the complainants was an Omani visitor who knew no one in Dubai to help him, and ended up losing his car.

On August 14, police received a complaint that a Lexus was stolen in the Al Muraggabat area. An investigation team went to the area where the car was last seen. The car, owned by a US citizen, was parked there around 5.30pm. When the American returned from a visit to a friend after a couple of hours, the vehicle had gone.

Police said they assigned secret agents to obtain information on the gangsters behind the string of car robberies. Acting on the tips received, the crack police team marked out four areas where the gangsters have been spotted. Painstaking investigation revealed that the gangsters stayed in a neighbouring emirate and that one of them was a dealer in spare parts. However, his business was not a normal business activity as the shop hardly operated like a normal spare parts shop.

Piecing together the evidence, the team narrowed down on the villa where the Ukrainian gangsters stayed. A raid, in co-ordination with the police authorities in the neighbouring emirate, followed and three of them were apprehended.

The last car reported stolen was found in the villa. It was undergoing massive modifications to be prepared for shipment, as the gangsters had done with the other cars they had stolen.

A more intensive search of the villa yielded tools used by the gangsters in forging the chassis and engine numbers.

On interrogation, the trio confessed to the charges and said they had sent the stolen cars.

“This is a highly-organised crime. What delayed the process of arrest is that they (gangsters) were well-trained,” said Brig. Al Mazainah.

He said police had contacted the agents of the cars who in turn consulted their principals. They sent an official letter to police saying the engines of the cars could not be ignited with keys other than their original ones. But the gangsters actually got access to the interior of the car through a sophisticated tool and then changed the computer device that normally bars intruders from igniting the engine with a pre-programmed device. They replaced the part with another part they got from a scrap shipment of the same vehicles and were then able to steal the vehicle.

“The whole process took between five to 15 minutes only,” Lieutenant Colonel Khalil Ibrahim of the CID explained.

The stolen, modified cars would then be taken to remote places in Sharjah or Umm Al Quwain.

Brig. Al Mazainah said the possibility that the owners reported the cars stolen to claim insurance compensation was ruled out altogether.

The equipment seized by police at the villa substantiated police conclusions that the gangsters changed the computer device, chassis numbers and model codes so that they could export the stolen cars with no problems from UAE exit points.

Brig. Al Mazainah said it was not yet ascertained whether or not the gangsters had used the same method elsewhere in the world. But he stressed the case was one of a kind here in Dubai.

The official said four of the stolen cars were recovered by police, while the rest were shipped outside the UAE. He said the authorities here had already started formal procedures to trace the cars and bring them back to Dubai. He said that would depend on the countries to which the cars were shipped.

According to the police, the stolen cars were exported to some of the CIS states. The case has now been referred to the public prosecution for charges to be officially filed against the suspects.

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