In an escalating crisis, criminal syndicates are orchestrating a multi-billion-dollar car theft industry that poses an ever-increasing threat to North America’s roadways and the security of Africa’s ports. As investigations by DAILY MAIL unravel the extent of this organized crime wave, it becomes clear that stolen vehicles, numbering in the hundreds, are being secretively shipped to Africa, with Ghana and Nigeria as primary destinations. This shocking surge in car theft is challenging law enforcement and raising alarms of a deepening national crisis in Canada and mounting security concerns in the United States.
A startling surge in vehicle thefts
Throughout 2023, an alarming number of vehicles have been intercepted at various US ports, marking an undeniable upward trend in the illicit trade. Canadian investigators have similarly unearthed grim discoveries as stolen cars, primarily from Canada and the United States, have been discovered abandoned in lots scattered across Africa. Even more alarming is the staggering rate at which these heists occur, averaging approximately one theft every six minutes in Canada alone.
The growing prevalence of push-to-start technology has facilitated this troubling surge in vehicle thefts, enabling criminal syndicates to quickly and efficiently carjack vehicles. Once these vehicles are stolen, the criminal organizations swiftly alter their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), rendering them untraceable. Subsequently, counterfeit Certificates of Title are obtained, providing a veneer of legitimacy to the stolen vehicles, allowing for their resale and eventual shipment to foreign shores. These illicit funds are often funnelled into other criminal activities, including money laundering and drug trafficking.
The dark journey to Africa
The path these stolen vehicles take to reach African shores is shadowy. They are crudely packed into shipping containers, stacked atop one another, and unloaded using makeshift wooden ramps, as illustrated in videos on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
Many of these smuggled vehicles bear foreign license plates, and some are even marketed as “foreign used,” a clear indicator that they may have been stolen and clandestinely shipped abroad. Dealerships in Nigeria and online marketplaces in Africa brazenly advertise these stolen vehicles, with apparent origins in the United States and Canada.
Global efforts and ongoing investigations
Efforts to counter this growing threat span continents. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the United States have reported a noticeable increase in vehicle seizures at major shipping ports. Notably, there has been a 32 per cent surge in stolen vehicle seizures at the Port of Newark in 2023, marking a concerning escalation.
In Canada, law enforcement agencies have intensified their efforts to combat this crisis, meticulously identifying vehicles that were stolen from Ontario and Quebec but ended up thousands of miles away in Ghana. Shockingly, many of these stolen vehicles retained their original registration and insurance documents, further complicating recovery efforts.
Urgent calls for action
The shocking escalation in vehicle thefts has prompted calls for immediate action. Organizations such as Équité Association, which specializes in investigating insurance fraud, urgently implore the Canadian government to update Federal Motor Safety Regulations. These outdated regulations are ill-equipped to address the vulnerabilities posed by modern vehicle technology. Équité Association proposes the installation of state-of-the-art anti-theft devices in all new vehicles to curtail the surge in stolen automobiles.
A growing international concern
— U.S. Embassy Ghana (@USEmbassyGhana) May 9, 2023
Ghana’s Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) has identified and frozen stolen vehicles from the United States. However, they have expressed grave concern about Canadian agencies’ lack of direct communication. EOCO urgently calls for measures to halt the flow of stolen vehicles before they reach African ports, highlighting the need for international cooperation in tackling this transcontinental problem.
The car theft crisis shows no signs of abating, as evidenced by the recent interception and seizure of 18 vehicles and a farm combine at the Port of Baltimore on September 1. The combined estimated value of these seized vehicles exceeded $428,000.
Adam Rottman, area port director for the Port of Baltimore, explained the situation: “One of the reasons that the Port of Baltimore is such a hot spot for stolen automobiles is our shipping routes. One of the main destinations for these stolen automobiles is West Africa, and we have many shipping routes connecting us to West Africa.”
A national crisis and an international dilemma
As investigations continue to unfold, the United States and Canada are intensifying their efforts to combat these brazen criminal organizations and protect their citizens from the rampant theft of vehicles destined for African markets. With the stakes higher than ever, national security agencies are determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, making it clear that this criminal wave must be stemmed at its source before it washes over North America and Africa. The challenge is immense, but the resolve to confront this mounting crisis is unwavering.