Ten people have been arrested, suspected of having stolen approximately 100 Mitsubishi vehicles in Spain and selling them on to customers in Germany and other European countries. The criminal group are thought to have been stealing Mitsubishis from Spain and transferring them to Germany since 2009, bringing in a profit of between 1 and 1.5 million euros for the gang.
Since the end of 2011 the police from Freiburg, Germany, and Guardia Civil from Calpe y Jávea, Alicante, Spain, have been investigating the case in close cooperation with Europol, Italian and Polish police. The criminals, who are of German and Polish nationalities, are responsible for stealing Mitsubishi vehicles and vehicle documents. Their activities were first detected on the Spanish East Coast. Once the gang had located a Mitsubishi vehicle, they broke the lock and stole the car after manipulating the ignition system. Sometimes they only managed to steal the vehicle’s documents, which were then used for the sale of another stolen Mitsubishi. When documents had been stolen from a car, the thieves would mark the car with a discreet sign, i.e. an ‘X’, so that they did not target the same car and documentation again.
On 24 October 2012, 36 searches were conducted in Germany, resulting in the seizure of 26 stolen cars. Most of the cars had been sold in good faith to private individuals who were unaware that the cars were stolen. The 46 year old German main suspect was arrested back in August 2012 and spent one month in custody before he was released on bail. During 2011 and 2012, nine further suspects were arrested in Spain at various stages of the operation, and most recently on 29 November. Further investigations are ongoing.
Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, supported the investigations with operational analysis, the organisation of international operational meetings and - in close cooperation with the German and Spanish Liaison Bureaux at Europol headquarters - fast information exchange between the involved countries was assured.