East Africa: Interpol Car Hunt Shakes East African Region

May 8, 2006 Posted to the web May 9, 2006

Phillip Nabyama

The public has been shaken by the International police (Interpol) hunt for stolen vehicles in the region.

In Uganda, Interpol, assisted by various departments of the Uganda police mounted abrupt checkpoints on prime city roads to verify the finer details of the vehicles.

Details like whether the engine and chassis numbers of the cars matched those entered into the respective car logbooks among others, were scrutinised.

Most targeted vehicles included luxury four-wheel drives like the Prado, Lexus, Rav4, Range and Land Rover, Land Cruiser, Humvee and ordinary saloon vehicles entering and (or) leaving the city from mid morning to late afternoon last week.

By press time, Friday, no arrests had been made but according to the police, over 5,000 were checked, 52 confirmed stolen, over a dozen had tampered parts and over 80 had queries.

The recovered vehicles, some from top government officials and church laity, are yet to be shipped back to their genuine owners.

However, much as officials refrained from commenting on the operation dubbed Umoja, (Swahili for unity) media reports quoted Uganda's police chief, Mr. Kale Kaihura as saying that the operation was agreed on by the three East African police chiefs during a joint meet.

A senior security officer involved in the operation told Business Week that some cars like the Hamvees (fast becoming a status symbol), were stolen from Brazil by a syndicate, shipped to Mozambique, re-sprayed and driven to different African countries where they are sold at attractive prices.

For example, while a genuine Rav4 costs anywhere above US$12,000 (Ush22 million) after taxes on the Ugandan market depending on model, a stolen one will cost about $8,000 (Ush15 million) or less.

Information from Interpol shows that approximately three million vehicles are stolen worldwide annually, with the thieves cashing in over $9 billion. Most of these cars, believed to be in the care of civilian populace, are stolen from Europe, Japan, South Africa and Dubai.

During the operation, several suspect vehicles were impounded and released only after thorough auditing. The stolen vehicles were parked at various police stations while the 'clean' ones had clearance stickers pasted onto their windscreens.

The crackdown to combat car thefts in the East African region started in Tanzania before spreading to Kenya late last month in which over 90 such cars were seized but later released by the police.

The operation comes weeks after the Uganda Revenue Authority impounded 20 foreign registered luxury cars mainly from DR Congo, Kenya and Sudan for illegal stay in the country.

Article sourced from http://allafrica.com/stories/200605090340.html

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