China / World

Race on to close stolen supercar pipeline

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-06-23 09:31

BANGKOK - Dozens of supercars including Lamborghinis, Porsches and BMWs have been stolen from the streets of the United Kingdom and shipped to Thailand in a complex scam that police from both countries are now rushing to dismantle.

Sparked by a British request to retrieve the lifted vehicles, detectives in Bangkok have launched a series of raids against dealers in recent weeks.

More than 120 top-of-the-range sports cars have since been seized, including some identified as stolen from the UK.

Thai investigators say they have also uncovered an array of scams and loopholes that dealers and corrupt customs officials exploit to circumvent eye-watering taxes the Southeast Asian kingdom places on supercars - usually around 328 percent.

"More than 1,000 supercars are implicated in the undervaluing scam," said Lieutenant Colonel Korawat Panprapakorn, the officer leading the investigation. "This practice has been going on for a long time."

The UK is the most popular source for luxury car imports to Thailand because both countries drive on the left hand side of the road.

While Thailand's economy has struggled in recent years, its billionaire class is doing just fine and gleaming supercars remain a common sight on the streets of Bangkok - even if they spend much of their time crawling along the city's gridlocked streets.

Lamborghinis appear to have been a top choice, making up 32 of the 122 seized vehicles, according to Thailand's Department for Special Investigations.

The tax evasion scams ranged from impressively creative to bizarrely simple.

At least two vehicles were allegedly shipped over from the UK in parts and then assembled in Thailand to avoid the triple tax rate.

Eight Lamborghinis were simply declared as being the cheaper Gallardo model when they were in fact the much more expensive Aventador.

Customs officers either did not notice or turned a blind eye to the error.

But in the vast majority of cases dealers grossly under-declared the true value of the cars to pay less tax, the DSI said, adding that about 30 businesses were being investigated.

The outright stolen vehicles were whisked abroad through a different scam.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation in the UK say most of the cars were bought on finance and shipped to Thailand.

When the vehicles were at sea, the owners reported them stolen and stopped paying the monthly repayments.

The UK's National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service confirmed it was working with Thai police to track the vehicles.

"To date 38 (stolen) UK vehicles, identified by their engine and chassis numbers and valued at over 2.3 million pounds ($3 million) have been imported into Thailand," the agency said.

While some of the stolen supercars have been located, it is unlikely they will return to the UK any time soon as the cases have to go through the court system.

"The work is difficult but we will fully investigate this," DSI deputy Korawat said. "It will take time."

Agence France-presse

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