International car theft Swedish cars were to be shipped to Dubai via Beuel

Bonn · Three expensive cars have been reported stolen in Sweden. They are found at a shipper in Beuel who wants to transport them to Dubai and claims to know nothing about any illegal activities. The police take action after receiving infos from a Dutch detective agency. What’s going on…?

On Monday evening, Bonn police seized four cars in Beuel that were presumably stolen or fraudulently obtained.

On Monday evening, Bonn police seized four cars in Beuel that were presumably stolen or fraudulently obtained.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Four vehicles suspected of having been stolen or fraudulently obtained were seized by police in Beuel on Monday evening. However, the logistics company that was supposed to ship the cars from the federal city to Dubai on behalf of a customer apparently knew nothing about stolen goods or stolen property. The decisive tip-off for the investigators came from a detective agency in the Netherlands. There are still many unanswered questions.

Bonn's used car scene is mostly located around Maarstraße. Scrap and car dealers are lined up here. The shops are not pretty, they are pragmatic. Construction fences and old walls separate the plots from each other, every centimetre is utilised. Scrapped cars are stacked on top of each other, cars for sale behind and next to each other.

This area is also home to the Bonn-based company whose family has shipped thousands of vehicles all over the world from here for more than 30 years. He is not a car dealer, as he says himself, but a logistics specialist: customers commission him to transport cars from the sender to the recipient. "This can be a purchase transaction, but also a move, for example when someone emigrates from Bonn to New York," he explains. In principle, he works like the post office - only with much larger parcels.

Suddenly the police are at the gate

What happened at his place on Monday evening was something he had never experienced before. At around 7.30 p.m., several patrol cars pulled up and police officers stood in front of the gate. "They were very friendly," says the man. But their concern was a serious one: they had received a tip-off from a Dutch detective agency that there was a vehicle on the site that had been reported stolen throughout Europe, as police spokesman Michael Beyer explains. "When we checked the site, we discovered two other vehicles that were also wanted," says Beyer. These three and a fourth car, which was suspected to have been stolen or fraudulently obtained, were ultimately seized by the investigators and towed from the yard that evening. "We then obtained search warrants and searched the car dealer's home and office," says Beyer. Data carriers and files were seized as evidence. The value of the cars is likely to be well over 200,000 euros.

"I have nothing to hide"

"None of this is a problem for me, I have nothing to hide," says the Bonn-based entrepreneur the day after. Ultimately, he led the investigators on the right track himself. "They only came for one car, I then showed them the other three." He had received the cars, expensive Mercedes, Audi and BMW, from a car hire company in Sweden. They had all been delivered in the past three weeks, the last one on Sunday evening. The company, which had previously had cars shipped from him, wanted to transport them to Dubai.

His job was not to check the cars, but purely logistical, as with the post office: The man from Bonn wanted to take them by car transporter to the port of Antwerp, where a shipping company would have taken over and loaded them onto a freighter bound for Saudi Arabia. "I have purchase contracts, photos and copies of the vehicle documents as well as the original keys. The licence plates, which are linked to the vehicle in Sweden, also had the chassis number stamped on them. I gave all this to the police. But the original documents were sent directly from Sweden to Dubai." He cannot check whether a car has been stolen. "I don't have access to such databases."

Dutch detectives located the car

The Dutch company apparently did. It tracks stolen vehicles throughout Europe on behalf of private individuals and companies and provides information to the local authorities. In the current case, they were able to locate the car thanks to a GPS tracker. They see themselves as a service provider: when a car is stolen, people often don't know what to do. The detective agency makes contact with the authorities and, if requested, also takes care of the recovery. The Dutch company did not want to comment on the specific case when asked by GA for reasons of discretion.

For the Bonn car shipper, who was not arrested and continued working on Tuesday, everything seems very dubious. "I do wonder what's behind this number." Based on his research, he suspects that leasing played a role. According to him, the cars were leased and could not simply be exported. "Apparently, the leasing bank then reported them as stolen in order to stop the export as quickly as possible." Both the recipient of the cars in Dubai and the Swedish car hire company had assured him several times that the cars were not stolen and that everything was above board. "They now want to get in touch with the police." The investigation is continuing there anyway. Also against him, on suspicion of receiving stolen goods and theft.

(Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach; Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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