An investigation by Mariana van Zeller for the National Geographic Channel, has exposed a car smuggling syndicate in the US which sends its booties to Ghanaian dealers who are known to belong to a generation of families who are into the sale of stolen cars.
The documentary also revealed that with import duties costing as much as 20percent of the value of a car in Ghana, there are hackers who have deeply penetrated the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority’s (GRA) computerized system to help the syndicate get away without paying the required import duties.
The investigative report released a week ago, started in the US where the journalist followed the activities of a gang who are into stealing luxury cars and shipping them to West African countries.
The gang in America, are able to steal the cars with their sets of keys, disable the Global Position System (GPS) and emboss new Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on the cars before shipping them to Ghana and other countries for sale.
The original owners would have reported the theft to their insurance companies for claims.
Some of the gang members who spoke to Van Zeller heavily- hooded explained to her how they undertake their activities and the structure of the international crime syndicate where cars stolen on the streets of America end up in third world countries such as Ghana.
They were afraid they could be killed if they dared to show their faces.
Van Zeller travelled to Ghana to meet some of the local players, including dealers and buyers who are mainly what has become known as “Fraud Boys”.
She met a hacker/black market trader and another person who handles the business aspect of the enterprise as a seller.
The two gave the journalist insights into the local trading of stolen cars and how they are able to get the cars into the Ghanaian system without raising any red flag.
The high import duties cost of 20percent of the value of a car in Ghana, the hacker told van Zeller that “it is my duty to attack the Tema Harbour… We make it seem as if you’ve paid everything,” the hacker stated.
Being the people at the end of the trail, the Ghanaian syndicate, are deemed as being at the summit of the international car smuggling syndicate.
Calling himself Ivan, a man who leads the importation and selling of stolen cars in Ghana, opened up more about the operations of the gang to the journalist.
“It is possible that most of these cars are stolen. Most of the boys come here to hang out. There are top guys that are in the business now; the stolen cars business. This is how some family generations have made money,” Ivan told the journalist while they drove through some areas in Accra where nightlife is buzzing.
In all, the investigation uncovered the Ghanaian players as those sitting on top of the international car theft ring. They make the most money from a criminal enterprise that sees cars belonging to people in America, stolen and shipped some six thousand miles away from their owners.
The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) in December 2022, retrieved thirty-seven vehicles suspected to have been stolen from the US and Canada.
The exercise, which was carried out in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was based on an intelligence-led operation.
In a press statement, EOCO said these vehicles were retrieved from some garages in Ghana, on December 9, 2022 and the suspects have since been questioned and granted bail.
“The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) has, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), carried out an intelligence-led operation for the retrieval of various specifications of luxury vehicles suspected to have been stolen from the United States of America (USA) and Canada.
“On Friday December 9 2022, thirty-seven (37) of such vehicles were retrieved from some garages in Accra during which ten (10) persons were arrested. The suspects have since been questioned and granted enquiry bail,” the statement further added.