Posted by By Chido Onumah - Nigeria World on
Four Nigerians and a Ghanaian are in police custody in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for their involvement in an alleged auto-theft ring.
Four Nigerians and a Ghanaian are in police custody in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for their involvement in an alleged auto-theft ring. Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Detective Sergeant Dave Childs confirmed to Nigeriaworld that alleged ringleader Okey Fabian Eze, 29, and four others will appear in court soon to face multiple charges, including organized crime involving stolen vehicles.
Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper reported Thursday that Eze was arrested near his Windsor, Ontario, home as he drove a 2006 Range Rover. "He didn’t say a hell of a lot," said Sergeant Childs whose Provincial Auto Theft Team (PATT) arrested Eze. "He was co-operative, he wasn’t belligerent, he wanted his right to counsel." Eze claimed he was in the export business which involved sending communications equipment to Nigeria.
Sergeant Childs told Nigeriaworld his department would soon make public the names of the other four suspects (three Nigerians and one Ghanaian). The group allegedly planned to ship 70 stolen cars to Nigeria. According to The Globe and Mail, most of the 70 vehicles seized from containers in Toronto and Montreal during a six-month period were not stolen off the street but rather had been leased or purchased from car dealerships with small down payments and false identification.
A search warrant was served on the Toronto freight company in whose containers most of the intercepted vehicles were discovered and documents seized. Police said the gang planned to take the vehicles from Toronto to Montreal by rail, then ship them to Nigeria via Antwerp, Belgium. About half were late-model sport-utility vehicles, many made by Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, BMW and Land Rover, with Japanese sedans accounting for most of the rest.
Reports say about 170,000 cars are stolen in Canada each year – roughly one every three minutes – with a dollar value of about $600 million in insurance losses. Of those 170,000, police and insurance experts estimate that about 20,000 are shipped abroad, with luxury four-wheel-drive vehicles favoured by far. Car thieves buy expensive cars under false names for the purpose of stealing them. "By the time the financing company finds out something’s amiss, few months have often gone by and they are chasing a ghost," Childs said. He added that the West-African market was a preferred destination for the stolen cars going outside Canada.
"From conversations I’ve had with individuals involved in the sale of automobiles in Nigeria, a vehicle such as a land Rover over there will sell for $100,000 (U.S.)," OPP detective, Staff Sgt. Scott Mills who heads PATT and helped arrest Eze told The Globe and Mail. "So if it’s stolen and you pay $5000 for export and duties, you’d realize a $95,000 (U.S.) profit for each one. As with the other popular foreign destinations, that fat markup primarily reflects the absence of legitimate retailing networks in Nigeria."
Sergeant Childs noted that this was the first time he had participated in an auto-theft scam involving Nigerians. He said the current operation started in November 2005 and that his department was exploring ways of working with police in Nigeria to tackle international auto-theft activities involving Nigerians.
Sola Enikanolaiye, Information Officer of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, told Nigeriaworld he was not aware of the story. He said the High Commission would follow up the case, adding "as soon as we get details we’ll know what kind of consular service to offer."
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