LYON, France – The suspected mastermind behind a global car smuggling ring, estimated to have trafficked luxury and sports vehicles worth around EUR 6 million since 2009, has been arrested following an INTERPOL-coordinated operation.
The Russian national was taken into custody in Venice, Italy following INTERPOL’s Operation Eastbound which coordinated the efforts of 14 member countries investigating an Eastern Russia-based organized crime group behind the theft of more than 30 cars from across Europe for trafficking to Southeast Asia, Russia and Australia.
The high-value cars, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Bentleys, were mainly stolen from rental companies in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland before being trafficked via container ship or air from southern France following the removal of any GPS-based tracker systems.
In late 2010, police received information that four sports cars which had been stolen in Spain were going to be illicitly shipped from Marseille in southern France to Japan. Following coordination via INTERPOL, shortly after its departure in early 2011 the freight ship was redirected to Naples, Italy where all four vehicles were recovered. In a simultaneous intervention, Swiss investigators seized a suitcase filled with document forgery equipment at Geneva train station.
Following a working group session of the Operation Eastbound members at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in March 2011, information exchange about the group’s structure and money trails led to the identification and arrest of a high profile member in Latvia in December.
When the suspected mastermind was arrested at Venice airport in July, information in the 36-year-old Russian’s possession indicated that the group was preparing another illicit trafficking operation across Europe and beyond.
“The success of Operation Eastbound was in bringing together the involved member countries, enabling them to share crucial investigative material and provide a platform for coordinated action which ultimately led to the organized crime network behind the theft and trafficking of millions of euros worth of cars being dismantled and the arrest of the suspected leader,” said Bernd Rossbach, Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime unit.
“This significant achievement is as a result of the continued hard work and dedication of all of the officers involved and their willingness to cooperate via INTERPOL,” concluded Mr Rossbach.
The name of the Russian national is not yet being released as investigations continue. For additional details of the individual country investigations, please contact the national enforcement agencies in the 14 countries concerned; Australia, Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.