London: Gang targeted rich and famous

A gang stole £1.5 million worth of upmarket cars from high-profile owners including diplomats and the socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a court heard.

They toured London's most wealthy areas with a shopping list of vehicles to be shipped abroad.

The thieves were so convinced that they were untouchable that they even filmed themselves driving some of the stolen luxury cars.

The most valuable vehicle they took was a £350,000 Mercedes SLR McLaren supercar, thought to be the first of its type stolen in England.

During the crime spree, which was described in court as highly sophisticated, the gang would search for targets on the driveways of upmarket houses.

Once the cars' keys had been stolen during burglaries, or copies obtained from dealers abroad using fake documents and false names, the luxury vehicles were quietly driven away.

The acquisitions were then given new identities by a "master forger" and shipped abroad - mainly to the United Arab Emirates via Maastricht and Antwerp.

Miss Palmer-Tomkinson's BMW 645 convertible worth £50,000 was - like most of the vehicles taken - stolen to order. Her car, later found at Birmingham airport, was just one of six to be recovered from the 34 to fall into the thieves' clutches.

The others remain with unidentified new owners, most of whom are believed to have paid "near market value" for them.

Some of the socialite's possessions, which she left in the vehicle when it was parked outside her London home, were found on the coffee table of the gang's leader, Imran Ganchi, 29, after his arrest. They included correspondence and a jeweller's receipt.

Southwark Crown Court heard dozens of Porsches, Mercedes, Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers were also "lifted" by the thieves during their three-and-a-half year operation.

The films made by the gang on their mobile phones provided police with a wealth of incriminating evidence. One showed Yusef Kaduji, 21, behind the hand-stitched leather steering wheel of the 208mph McLaren.

Although the value of the gang's acquisitions was put at more than £1.5 million, the court heard that if they had remained free and honoured their bulging order book, the final tally would have approached £2.5 million.

Involved in the scam were Ganchi, of Ilford, Essex; Kaduji, of Forest Gate, east London; Shakeel Shoukat, 21, also of Forest Gate; Shazad Hussain, 31, of Moseley, Birmingham; and Hameed Nawaz, 31, of Luton, Beds.

They variously admitted a number of conspiracies involving both car thefts and money laundering between June 1 2003 and Jan 1 this year.

In addition, Hussain asked for the handling of two stolen Mercedes SL500s and a Toyota Land Cruiser to be considered, while Kaduji made a similar request involving an Aston Martin.

Francis Sheridan, prosecuting, told the court: "This was a highly sophisticated ringing operation. This was all properly done."

He said that the gang's arrests followed a two-year police investigation triggered when the Metropolitan Police's stolen vehicle unit was contacted by the Limburg Zuid Organised Crime Unit in the Netherlands.

The gang will be sentenced at a later date.

Source: Telegraph (English), h/t Investigative Project (English)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Smart gang !
are they Muslims or Arabs or what?
if they are they be careful they are getting really sophisticated.

Still cool they are high tech finally.