Detectives tracing a Lexus stolen from London ended up locating it in UGANDA – alongside a fleet of British cars worth more than £1 million.
The £50,000 SUV was fitted with state-of-the-art tracking device which activated when it was nicked from west London.
As a result the National Crime Agency was able to use a smartphone app to trace the journey of the stolen car 6,000 miles to Kampala, Uganda.
When officers discovered the Lexus RX450h, they were stunned to find it alongside 28 other posh cars which had been stolen from the UK by the car-smuggling gang.
It is believed that all the vehicles were equipped with keyless ignition, with the criminals using reprogrammed keys to start the cars up and drive off.
Car manufacturers, insurance companies and police forces are facing an uphill battle against the sophisticated method.
Since the start of the year, more than 40,000 cars have been stolen in London with a quarter of these using keyless technology.
In upmarket Kensington and Chelsea, officers are now stopping high-end vehicles being driven in the area after midnight, when many vehicle thefts take place.
The Ugandan car-smuggling ring was broken up by law enforcement agencies and anti-fraud investigators APU Ltd.
Using APU’s special technology, National Crime Agency regional manager Paul Stanfield traced the progress of the stolen Lexus using a Smartphone.
The car was stolen in April, where it was tracked to Le Havre, in France, where it was shipped across the Med, through the Suez canal to Oman.
It was then shipped to Mombasa in Kenya before being transported by road to Kampala – where they drive on the right-hand side – in a steel container.
The app allowed police to identify corrupt officials in both Kenya and Uganda, infiltrate the criminal syndicate and understand its operation.
Mr Stanfield said: “This investigation is an excellent example of the close co-operation between the UK National Crime Agency, National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NVCIS), Interpol and APU to tackle the increasing threat from organised vehicle crime.
“Working with the police and security services in Kenya and Uganda, we have been able to dismantle an international criminal network that has been responsible for stealing high-value cars from the UK and exporting them to East Africa.
“The role that APU and its unique technology played in the operation was crucial.
“Without its innovative method of locating the asset and its team’s experience in both converting location data into usable content as well as understanding how such a complex investigation is executed, we would not have been able to bring this operation to a successful conclusion.
“Having seen how private and public sectors have worked hand-in-hand so perfectly during this investigation, I am in no doubt what it means for the success of future operations and the importance of collaboration and looking at organisations like APU.”
The fleet of stolen cars, mainly made up of Range Rovers, BMWs, Audis and other prestige makes, is now in the process of being shipped back to the UK.