Finance

Jul 13 2017

Stolen cars may be sold for $50 to buy ice as unlicensed scrap metal merchant

#scrap car
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Tammy Mills

Mike Third in his massive wrecking yard full of old cars in Dandenong. Mike agrees with police that cash for scrap should be banned due to the number of cars stolen for cash. Photo: Simon_O’Dwyer

Police have asked the government to ban cash for scrap metal that they say is providing a lucrative outlet for stolen cars.

Crime figures set to be released will show Melbourne has become the stolen car capital of Australia.

Police intelligence investigations have found many older model cars are being sold by ice addicts for between $50 and $300 to unlicensed scrap metal merchants on a no-questions-asked basis.

Cars are stolen, sold for scrap and then shipped to China and Africa. Photo: Craig Abraham

The metal is then shipped to China in containers while salvageable spare parts are being sent to Africa and Asia, a police report by Taskforce Discover says.

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One long-time scrap metal dealer said he was forced to close his business as he could no longer compete with the rogues , while another says legitimate traders are forced to deal in cash to compete in a dead rotten system .

The government is waiting on a report by the Victorian Law Reform Committee.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill says the trend in car theft in Victoria is disturbing. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

The committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Philip Cummins, is considering a number of recommendations including the cash for scrap ban and one to close loopholes that allow the re-birthing of wrecked cars.

The report, due to be handed to the Attorney General in February, will ask for a number of legislative changes to stop organised crime from infiltrating lawful industries.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill said the force have made recommendations to the committee to regulate the scrap metal industry in response to a disturbing trend of car theft.

Mike Third says the current system is ‘dead rotten’. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Figures published by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council on car theft last week put Victoria ahead of New South Wales for the first time.

It showed a 5.6 per cent increase in car theft in Victoria in the year to October, from 13,620 to 14,381.

The surge is expected to be reflected in soon-to-be-published Crime Statistic Agency numbers.

Mr Hill said while 80 per cent of stolen cars were recovered, 20 per cent disappeared and many of these went into the scrap market.

He said 15-25-year-old men were largely behind the surge in car theft, often taking keys from inside homes to steal cars because modern technology prevented old-school hot-wiring.

They’re stealing these cars predominantly to commit other crimes and crimes of violence, Mr Hill said.

National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council executive officer Ray Carroll said up to 6000 stolen cars enter the Australian scrap market every year and legitimate businesses are having to make cash payments simply to keep up with backyard operations.

If they don’t pay cash then they’re restricting their supply chain as well, he said.

Mike Third, managing director of Total Auto Recyclers in Dandenong, said rogue operators are the industry and legitimate businesses like his, which are slowly disappearing , have to trade in cash.

It’s a dead rotten system, Mr Third said.

There’s a lot of disincentive for compliance.

He said if they run checks on every car sold to them, it would cost $20,000 a year to access the database available to traders.

We get identification from people, we take pictures, but we often still get caught with a car that’s under finance or is stolen and we pay cash before we have the opportunity to check the car’s credentials or before it is reported stolen, he said.

He said a cash for scrap ban would level the playing field .

The theft reduction council is also pushing for a cash for scrap ban among a raft of measures to regulate the industry.

Mr Carroll said similar legislation introduced in the United Kingdom in 2013 – largely in response to copper theft – has worked.

That has, anecdotally if nothing else, had a major impact on illegitimate operators, he said.

Taskforce Discover completed a major audit of the scrap metal industry last year and it discovered Australia had fallen way behind the world’s best practice.

In the absence of a responsible management scheme, conduct around vehicle disposal here has developed into a free-for-all open market, hosting a range of unacceptable practices and illicit activities, it reported.

This includes environmental pollution, unsafe workplaces, vehicle theft, illegal exports and a flourishing chasing economy that facilitates tax evasion, welfare fraud and money laundering.





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