WATCH: There is concern that cars being stolen in Canada are being shipped to West Africa to fund terrorism there. Jennifer Tryon has the story on how your car could end up in a container to Africa, financing some of the most dangerous groups in the world.
TORONTO – The Insurance Bureau of Canada says cars purchased in Ontario using fake IDs and shipped to Africa may be funding terror groups.
The bureau is investigating because insurance premiums by Canadians’ increase when the cars are shipped overseas and the people who bought the cars stop payment.
“Our concern is that the money is getting not only in the hands of organized crime, but in the hands of could be very well funding terrorist operations in other countries,” Insurance Bureau spokesperson Rick Dubin said.
How they do it
He said people approach dealerships with stolen identities, invoices and a credit card. They lease a car and pay the first and last month payments on the vehicle.
By the time the dealership realizes something is wrong the car is in a container ship on its way overseas.
“When you put the money down first and last months and everything is ok, there’s no reason to suspect anything improper being done at that point,” Dubin said.
How they’re foiled
Inspectors at the port of Montreal have seized roughly $8 million worth of stolen vehicles from the port each year since 2009, Dubin said.
“It’s all about opening the right containers. Several thousand containers enter and exit the country through the port of Montréal,” said Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Dominique McNealy.
“When we find things it’s because our officers are really experts at finding those indicators that allow us to find those stolen vehicles.”
He said agents look for anomalies but wouldn’t say what that meant. They also scrutinize export documents and use police intelligence to decide which containers to check.
He said the containers go to a variety of different countries, but stolen cars are primarily being shipped to Africa and the Middle East.
Dubin estimated that financed cars make up only 20 per cent of the vehicles being shipped to Africa. Most are stolen, he said.
In fact, Durham Regional Police announced Tuesday morning the arrest of seven people involved in a similar scheme. Police said they were stealing cars and shipping them to Africa via Halifax and Montreal.
“It all started with two stolen Tacomas that were recovered at the port of Halifax by the CBSA,” Det. Sgt. Kevin Moorish said during a Tuesday morning press conference. Those stolen cars were “linked back to a document, a forged document that was obtained through a search warrant in York Region that brought us to the attention of this organized crime group.”
Police said the operation included the thieves who stole the cars from around the Greater Toronto Area, a dealer who obtained documents from the Ministry of Transportation, a person who changed Vehicle Identification Numbers and an exporter who shipped the cars overseas.
How you pay for it
The cars are insured before leaving the dealership, so when officials find out they were purchased under false pretenses, the insurance company ends up covering the loss. Those costs are then passed to the average consumer, Dubin said.
“It’s the insurance companies of these fraudsters that are ending up paying for these losses, and it drives the premiums up for everybody.”