Three jailed in national £750k stolen car export ring
chopped cars hidden at the back of the trailer
The trailer when opened
The lock-up where the cars were prepared
THREE MEN responsible for attempting to export stolen top of the range cars have been sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Golam Merzaj, 32, Ali Raza Ahmed, 64, and Yusef Arman, 32, were each jailed at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (15 March) for conspiracy to conceal, disguise, remove, transfer and convert criminal property.
The three businessmen pleaded guilty to the charges following a three week trial which started on Tuesday 12 June last year.
Their jailing comes following a painstaking international policing operation in which shipping containers packed with chopped-up stolen cars were intercepted at a port in southern England.
The cars, stolen from across the country, were destined for the United Arab Emirates where detectives believe they would have been sold as expensive spare parts to wealthy locals at the cost of British victims of crime.
Code named operation Bromwich, detectives from the force’s Criminal Investigation Department spent months investigating the crime-ring following a tip-off received in October 2010 which suggested that stolen cars were being stripped down, disassembled, and packaged ready to be shipped.
In early November a container was intercepted at Southampton docks. When detectives opened the 40ft steel shipping unit, they discovered tonnes of scrap metal and used car parts packed around a central core of Audi doors, BMW bonnets, Range Rover wheels and other valuable spares.
These were removed from the container for forensic examination while the legitimate scrap vehicle parts which were primarily lower value items were re-packed and the container sent on its journey to the Middle East.
With Interpol informed of operation and four weeks before the people receiving the stolen goods would notice parts they were expecting were missing, the West Midlands detectives worked to piece the cars together in a bid to identify the vehicles and their rightful owners.
Their inquiries indicated that the cars had been stolen over the course of two years from September 2008 where BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, Range Rovers, Porches and Volkswagens had been stolen from addresses in Birmingham, Kilmacolm in Scotland, Rochdale, Sandwell, Stafford, Solihull and Swindon.
They had then been driven to a Black Country garage operated by brothers Golam Merzaj and Yusef Arman where they would be carefully taken apart by a team of mechanics.
From the unit on Alma Street, Smethwick the parts were then loaded into containers at a shipping company owned by Ali Raza Ahmed, who would organise for them to be transported overseas.
The team had to act before the container which they had intercepted arrived at its destination and the West Midland ringleaders alerted to the police operation.
A 24 hour surveillance operation was launched by undercover officers on both sites just five miles apart. And having watched cars being driven into the garage ran by the brothers and not emerge, on a Friday in late November 2010, covert officers reported that a second container was set to leave the West Midlands.
At this point, police took the decision to simultaneously swoop on the garage and the shipping company on Studley Street, Sprakbrook.
When the container was opened officers again discovered high-value car parts, carefully wrapped in plastic and hidden from view by scrap mental and old car spares. 12 men who were present at the sites were arrested.
Detective Constable Scott Chivers from Force CID said: "This was an incredibly complex case with international connections.
"Criminals across the UK clearly knew about the racket Merzaj, Arman and Ahmed had set-up and would steal expensive cars from homes in towns and cities across the country just to drive them down to the West Midlands in exchange for cash.
"The cars would then be carefully disassembled and wrapped in a protective layer of plastic before they were packed in the centre of shipping containers with lower value car parts and scrap metal surrounding them to throw any officials who may inspect the cargo off the trail. Unfortunately for the three men jailed, they didn’t know that we’d been tipped-off and that their efforts to evade the law had failed. We were on to them. Through a painstaking policing operation we were able to identify the ring leaders of this illegal export business and bring them to justice."
Eight men were brought before the courts on the same charge. Merzaj from Smethwick, Arman from Edgbaston and Ahmed from Kings Heath pleaded guilty while the remaining five workers at the garage and shipping company, were acquitted.
Of the 21 stolen cars recovered in the operation, 13 had been stolen in car key burglaries, two had been taken in terrifying car jackings, and the remaining six were stolen by other means. They were valued when new at a value in excess of £750,000.
All of the car parts were returned to the victim’s insurance companies. Work is now underway by detectives to seize the criminal assets of this gang under the Proceeds of Crime Act which sees ill-gotten gains seized and sold by police with the money raise ploughed back into community crime fighting initiatives.
A number of those responsible for stealing the cars have since been jailed.
Merzaj was jailed for four years and six months, Ali Raza Ahmed was jailed for two years and Yusef Arman was sentenced to three years and three months behind bars.
Ali Raza AHMED