It’s the type of thing that keeps you up at night – the thought of somebody breaking into your home while you’re asleep.
That’s especially true in Victoria, where crime rates have skyrocketed. Crime rates are up by 16.7 per cent per 100,000 people over the past five years, with property and deception offences accounting for the greatest number of crimes reported.
You can imagine, then, the fear felt by a Glen Iris family when their near-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe was stolen from their home as they slept inside.
“They came into the house – double storey – whilst we were asleep upstairs. They stole the keys from the side board – there was a wallet one metre away that they didn’t take – and then drove off in the car,” the owner said.
“There was no breaking of locks – so they had to have had a key cut somehow and cased the house.”
While the owner of the vehicle was surprised that only the car was taken – with the rest of the family’s belongings left untouched – police weren’t.
“Police came and fingerprinted, but said a car like that only a few months old would have been stolen to break down for parts or shipped overseas,” the owner said.
“Was it an inconvenience? Definitely, and extremely frightening that someone was in our house whilst we were. We got a full replacement brand-new car through insurance.”
The vehicle was stolen from Glen Iris on February 13, 2017 and the family heard nothing after the event. Until, thanks to a canny reader, we tracked them down.
The family’s Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe was spotted by a CarAdvice reader in Dubai in July this year. Surprisingly, the car was fully intact, and still had the original registration plate and dealership numberplate frames attached.
While it was unexpected to see the car in another country, it was more surprising to see the car in one piece. Normally when vehicles are stolen for knockdown, they are dismantled in Australia prior to being exported and reassembled.
In this instance, the brazen theft was followed by an equally brazen delivery to a dock for shipment overseas. This process would have required somebody to turn a blind eye to a registered Australian vehicle being placed into a shipping container with no documentation in Melbourne, followed by another person accepting the vehicle at a port in the United Arab Emirates.
The CarAdvice reader, who was looking for spare parts for his Mercedes-Benz at the time, said that often stolen right-hand-drive cars will be shipped to Pakistan, where laws are more relaxed on vehicle registration.
“When I saw this car with Australian numberplates, I thought it was very strange. You sometimes see British cars, but never cars from Australia,” the reader said.
“When people bring cars like this, they are normally 100 per cent crashed or have no title or proper papers and some damage, and only for spare parts.”
“While you can’t register the car here, you can easily take it to Pakistan or India with duplicate papers and it’s quite easy to register,” said the reader.
What’s even more surprising is that the reader contacted state police in Australia first, and then the Australian Federal Police, to report the vehicle being found. They all explained that nothing could be done. This genuinely astounded us.
We wanted to know how it was possible to export a vehicle without any documentation. We followed up with Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This is what they had to say:
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
“The Department advises that your queries might be better directed to Customs and/or the AFP,” said the representative.
“As the Department deals only with regulatory matters pertaining to vehicle imports, rather than exports, we cannot provide a response to your question.”
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
“The Department targets the potential export of stolen vehicles when State and Federal law enforcement partners provide relevant information or intelligence to us,” a representative said.
“When requested by law enforcement partners, the Department can use its powers to identify and prevent exports of concern, including stolen or rebirthed vehicles.”
“The Australian Border Force uses a range of intelligence tools to identify shipments of illicit goods and constantly adapts and improves its targeting methods based on existing and emerging border threats and illegal activity.”
Australian Federal Police
The AFP refused to comment in writing in relation to the import or export of stolen vehicles.
While the Victoria Police took some time to respond to our queries, they were investigating the matter. We were asked to hold off publishing this story as they were about to make an arrest in relation to the stolen vehicle. We eventually received the following from a spokesperson at Victoria Police:
“A 32-year-old man from Endeavour Hills was arrested on 5th of December in relation to an alleged theft of motor vehicle and handle stolen goods in relation to a Mercedes-Benz which was located in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year,” the spokesperson said.
“The man was interviewed and released pending summons. Three people have been arrested by authorities in the UAE in relation to the matter. The investigation is ongoing.”
It’s pleasing to see that arrests have been made in relation to the theft, but it’s incredibly disheartening to know that stolen cars can so easily be exported out of the country with zero intervention by authorities. Is there no monitoring and patrolling of the docks or shipping channels?
It is huge gaps in security like this that give criminals a market for stolen vehicles.
Are you concerned with the direction of vehicle crime and crime in general in Australia? Do you know anybody that works at the docks in Port Melbourne? We want to talk to you anonymously to find out how this type of export can occur.
The vehicle’s registration details have been blurred to protect the owner of the vehicle, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this story below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.