UK: BBC exposes 'biggest car fraud in the world'

By just-auto.com editorial team | 24 July 2001

The BBC has exposed what it claims is the 'biggest car fraud in the world' involving vehicles stolen in Japan and eventually sold as nearly new in overseas right hand drive (RHD) markets such as Britain.

The fraud hinges on the role of Dubai's Free Trade Zone as a handling centre for the trade. Cars are given new identities and adapted so that they can be passed off as nearly new to the car trade in the destination market.

The fraud operators have targeted high margin off-roaders and performance cars for the trade. Even more worryingly, crude workshops are now converting models to LHD, as the UK market for RHD vehicles becomes saturated.

Some of these cars are being shipped to markets such as Russia, China, Burma and Afghanistan.

It is estimated that some 100,000 cars currently on British roads were originally stolen in Japan as part of this fraud and that a total of half a million stolen Japanese cars have passed through Dubai.

Organised criminal groups, such as the Japanese Yakusa, are said to be heavily involved in this fraudulent trade.

The scale of the fraud is expected to cause a furore in the consumer press.

Quentin Willson, a journalist at the centre of the investigation, told just-auto: "This provides empirical proof that car manufacturers need to make cars more theft resistant.

"I'd like to see secret identity markings on individual components with VIN and manufacturer codes. If all cars had a high level of standard security then this sort of fraudulent trade could not take place."

The BBC television programme "The Biggest Car Fraud in the World", will be screened on Wednesday, 25th July on BBC1 at 7:30pm BST.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The world's car manufacturers: A financial and operating review

Automotive regional report: Western Europe

Automotive country report: Japan