As demand for used cars surges, illegal wreckers suspected of being involved in organised crime are on police watch.
According to Austalian Sunday Herald Sun, recently millions of dollars worth of rebirthed vehicles were seized by police as they put illegal wreckers on notice.
Dozens of car wreckers suspected of being involved in high-end organised crime are on the radar of Victoria Police’s specialist vehicle crime squad as the demand for used cars hits unprecedented levels.
A Sunday Herald Sun investigation has found:
- Almost 200 rebirthed and stolen cars valued at more than $5m have been seized by the vehicle crime squad in the past year.
- Firearms, drugs and stolen items have been linked to car rebirthing syndicates.
- 11 unlawful car wreckers have been shut down in Melbourne since scrap metal laws were introduced in 2018.
Vehicles stolen in burglaries and street thefts across Melbourne are being ‘rebirthed’ and sold by criminals through unregulated websites, including Gumtree.
Rebirthing involves parts of one car — often a wrecked vehicle — being put on to a stolen vehicle to disguise and resell it for a significant profit.
Sergeant Scott Williams from the vehicle crime squad said illegal car wreckers in Campbellfield, Sunshine North, Braybrook, Cheltenham, Lara, Dandenong and Bangholme had been shut down since the 2018 crackdown.
He said dozens more were under criminal suspicion and should wind up now or face the consequences.
Sergeant Scott Williams said:
“There are a number of businesses currently on our radar, so if you are acting illegally or profiting from illegal motor vehicles, parts or scrap metal, you can expect a visit from us.”
In the past year, the vehicle crime squad has seized about 100 cars, 50 trailers and caravans and 20 motorbikes that were stolen or rebirthed.
Often they are reclaimed from a new buyer who had no idea they had purchased a rebirthed vehicle and are left thousands of dollars out of pocket.
A 2017 Toyota RAV 4 stolen in Carnegie was recently sold to a woman for $19,000. The rebirthed vehicle was later seized by the vehicle crime squad and returned to its original owner, leaving the buyer $19,000 out of pocket.
The pandemic has led to massive supply bottlenecks in the domestic car market. Buyers unwilling to wait for imports have been paying up to 40 per cent more for used cars, stripping dealerships of stock and possibly contributing to vehicle theft in Melbourne.
Rebirthing syndicates are often highly organised operations and have been linked to crimes including drug trafficking and firearm possession in Melbourne.
31 stolen or rebirthed vehicles valued at a combined $1.25m were seized in a joint operation between Victoria’s vehicle crime squad and Queensland’s major organised crime squad last month. Police seized multiple Volkswagen Tiguans, Ford Rangers, BMWs and a Harley-Davidson motorbike as well as drugs and cloned number plates.
Sgt Williams said buyers should do their homework before purchasing a car online. He said:
“If it seems too good to be true, it generally is.”