The police in Canada have arrested 18 persons for allegedly stealing vehicles valued at $4.5 million.
Cross Cresswell, a detective at the auto cargo theft unit of York Regional Police, made the announcement on Friday, 19 March.
He said the arrests were made under Project Majestic, a police operation launched in December 2020.
Cresswell said the project was launched to address overnight vehicle theft of residents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Speaking on the suspects’ mode of operation, the detective said cars are stolen under five minutes after a quick reprogramming of the ignition computer.
He identified some of the stolen cars to include Lexus and Toyota SUVs, adding that the cars are often shipped to Nigeria, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The group of thieves will target affluent residents area in the GTA. They will scout cars in the evening hours and return in the early morning hours. They will force their way into the vehicle and at that point, they will be reprogramming the car’s computer to recognize their own key for the vehicle and they then complete the theft by removing it from the resident’s driveway,” he said.
“The vehicles that are targeted are because of their value overseas, especially Lexus and Toyota SUVs. They are quite valuable in the ports where they are being shipped to.
“The group would also operate at several levels with a group of thieves that would bring cars to our traffickers. The traffickers would then containerise those vehicles in sea containers and ship them to two main ports in Nigeria and Ghana. We have also seen the middle east as a new area where vehicles are shipped with the majority of cars going to the United Arab Emirates.”
Cresswell said the police have recovered 60 high-value vehicles with many others tracked on the sea.
He said the York police worked in collaboration with Toronto Police Auto Theft Suppression Project, the Peel Regional Police Commercial Auto Crime Unit and Peel Regional Police Criminal Investigations Bureaus.
The detective said 18 suspects have been charged with more than 170 offences.
He said investigators identified the criminal syndicate allegedly responsible for stealing high-end vehicles from residential driveways across the GTA following a two-month investigation.
Cresswell urged residents to park their vehicles in their garage or adopt the use of traditional anti-theft devices such as a locking device for the car’s computer port.