Money

Middlemen-official nexus in selling stolen vehicles

- BHUSAN YADAV, BIRGUNJ

Dec 30, 2014-Middlemen operating at the Narayani Transport Management Office (NTMO) have been found to be selling stolen vehicles from India at throwaway prices in Nepal. They even provide a genuine blue book in collusion with NTMO employees.

These agents have been selling automobiles like the i10, Santro, Tata Sumo, Scorpio and Bolero for Rs 500,000 to Rs 1 million which is a fraction of their actual prices.

The racket came to light after Makwanpur Police and Parsa Police confiscated eight stolen vehicles last month. Similarly, the police here have confiscated about two dozen stolen motorcycles registered with the NTMO.  

The police said that middlemen and NTMO employees had been working together and operating the scam. The scheme was uncovered after a well-known middleman Mohammad Khursed alias Bittu was arrested. The police have also been questioning three section officers at the NTMO.

“The con men registered the stolen vehicles in the same way new cars purchased through formal channels are registered with the cooperation of NTMO staff,” said a source. “The stamp pad and signature used to prepare the documents have been found to be genuine.”

The stolen motorcars are issued licence plate numbers of vehicles that have been sent to other parts of the country. The source said that the records of the original automobiles were removed before providing their registration numbers to the stolen vehicles. The source said that it would be difficult to remove the NTMO’s ledger from the building. “However, the gang has done the job carefully.”

NTMO Chief Rajendra Ghimire said that they were investigating the registration of stolen vehicles. “Those involved in the fraud will not be let off,” he added.

According to the police, the racketeers imported stolen vehicles mainly from bordering towns in India. They have been using different methods to bring luxury four-wheelers into Nepal at less cost.

A few years ago, the usual modus operandi was to smuggle in vehicles with major components removed and get them confiscated by the Customs Office or the Department of Revenue Investigation. These government offices then auction off the vehicles as per their practice. Since there would be no bidders as the vehicles were missing major parts, the smugglers would pick them up very cheaply.

A police officer said a number of political leaders, smugglers and traders in the region were travelling in such vehicles. However, this method had to be abandoned after the Customs Office and the Revenue Office stopped registering vehicles without engines, and the smugglers joined up with NTMO officers and began operating in a new way. The stolen vehicles are reported to be imported mainly from Raxaul and nearby areas. They used to be available in Birgunj, but after the authorities intensified their surveillance, smugglers started going to Indian markets to buy them.

The stolen vehicles are sneaked into Nepal through customs points situated in rural areas. Auto smuggling has become a major criminal activity in Nepal and India. As a result, reports of vehicle theft have swelled in India.

The import duty on automobiles is more than 200 percent, and this has created a market for cheap stolen vehicles in Nepal.

As per a trader involved in the illegal trade, car owners in India themselves are involved in the business since they can report that their vehicles were stolen and collect insurance money.

Published: 30-12-2014 07:06

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