Three men who attempted to export stolen luxury car parts worth £300,000 have been jailed for a total of 10 years.
Golam Merzaj, Ali Raza Ahmed and Yusef Arman used a unit in Smethwick to dismantle the cars, including Range Rovers and Porsches stolen from the Black Country, Staffordshire and elsewhere across the UK before trying to ship them abroad.
The three businessmen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal, disguise, remove, transfer and convert criminal property following a three- week trial.
Their jailing at Birmingham Crown last Fridayfollows a painstaking international operation led by West Midlands Police in which shipping containers packed with chopped-up stolen cars were intercepted at Southampton.
The cars were destined for the United Arab Emirates where detectives believe they would have been sold as expensive spare parts to wealthy locals.
Of the 21 stolen cars recovered in the operation, 13 had been taken in car key burglaries, two had been taken in terrifying car jackings, and the remaining six were stolen by other means.
Detectives spent months investigating the crime-ring following a tip-off received in October 2010.
In early November a container was intercepted at Southampton docks. When detectives opened the 40ft steel shipping unit, they discovered tons of scrap metal and used car parts packed around a central core of Audi doors, BMW bonnets, Range Rover wheels and other valuable spares.
These were removed from the container for forensic examination while the legitimate scrap vehicle parts, which were primarily lower value items, were repacked and the container sent on its journey to the Middle East.
With Interpol informed of the operation and four weeks before the people receiving the stolen goods would notice parts they were expecting were missing, the West Midlands detectives worked to piece the cars together in a bid to identify the vehicles and their rightful owners.
Their inquiries indicated that the cars had been stolen over the course of two years from September 2008. The BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, Range Rovers, Porsches and Volkswagens had been stolen from addresses in Sandwell, Stafford, Birmingham, Solihull and elsewhere in the UK.
They had then been driven to a Smethwick garage operated by brothers Merzaj and Arman where they would be taken apart by a team of mechanics, the court was told. From the unit on Alma Street, the parts were then loaded into containers at a shipping company owned by Ahmed in Birmingham, who would organise for them to be transported overseas.
A 24-hour surveillance operation was launched by undercover officers on both sites just five miles apart. And having watched cars being driven into the garage ran by the brothers and not emerge, on a Friday in late November 2010, covert officers reported that a second container was set to leave the West Midlands.
Police then simultaneously swooped on the garage and the shipping company on Studley Street, Sparkbrook. When the container was opened officers again discovered high-value car parts, hidden from view by scrap mental and old car spares. Twelve men were arrested.
Detective Constable Scott Chivers from Force CID said: “Criminals across the UK clearly knew about the racket Merzaj, Arman and Ahmed had set-up and would steal expensive cars from homes in towns and cities across the country just to drive them down to the West Midlands in exchange for cash.”
Eight men were brought before the courts on the same charge in June last year. Merzaj, aged 32, from Queens Close, Smethwick, Arman, also 32, from St Stephen’s Road, Portsmouth, and Ahmed, 64, of Hazelhurst Road, Kings Heath, pleaded guilty while the remaining five workers at the garage and shipping company, were acquitted.
Merzaj was jailed for four years and six months, Ali Raza Ahmed was jailed for two years and Yusef Arman was sentenced to three years and three months behind bars.
All of the car parts were returned to the victim’s insurance companies. Work is now underway to seize the criminal assets of the gang under the Proceeds of Crime Act.