vehicle-smuggling-from-south-africaWe have given much attention to the risks of vehicle theft and the need to protect ownership through the correct vehicle security systems. We have also provided some insight to the large quantities of vehicles illegally crossing our borders in the hands of thieves and hijackers. But how do they do it?

The South African Insurance Crime Bureau has revealed how criminals use a variety of methods to take vehicle across the borders of South Africa – and we would like to share this information with our vehicle owners:

Not crossing official border posts

  • In some instances, vehicles are driven across the long borders without going through an official border post. Some border lines between South Africa and its neighbours are only defined by long stretches of cattle fencing that can easily be cut or flattened to allow vehicles to cross.
  • Criminals simply cut the wire around the bigger poles, drop the smaller poles and drive through. Patrolling this type of terrain next to the border fence is tough due to the inaccessibility of the area, and the fact that the Government stopped the SANDF from patrolling the area. (Fortunately it seems that soon the SANDF will be patrolling our borderlines again.)

Crossing the Border posts

A variety of methods is used to smuggle vehicles through the border post itself:

  • The first involves the fraudulent removal of vehicles from South Africa with the permission of the vehicle owner. Once the vehicle has crossed the border it is reported stolen or hijacked in South Africa.
  • This form of crime often involves bank and insurance fraud as the owner will claim insurance for the “theft”.
  • Another method involves the use of duplicate documentation. In such cases, a vehicle will be stolen or hijacked and then taken out of the country using duplicate documentation that does not belong to the said vehicle. The duplicate documentation actually belongs to a vehicle with the same model and make as the one being smuggled out of the country, and often belongs to a vehicle that has either been scrapped or disassembled.
  • This form of crime often takes a fairly experienced eye to detect. This is especially the case when the engine and chassis numbers have been tampered with and the original numbers are difficult to detect.

Using criminal contacts / Partners in crime

  • Stolen or hijacked vehicles can be re-registered with relative ease by using contacts working in the Licensing Department.
  • The false registration documentation will then be used to smuggle vehicles across the borders.
  • There are also known cases where people from a neighbouring country may order a stolen vehicle in advance. In such cases, the vehicle may be pre-registered in a neighbouring country before or immediately after it has been hijacked or stolen. The stolen vehicle will then be taken across the border by using the new registration papers of the country from where it had been ordered.

Where vehicles are smuggled through border posts, as opposed to across border lines, it is common practice to use export permits or temporary import permits. In these circumstances, the networks rely on identified weaknesses in systems at border posts, lack of compliance with procedures at border posts, or corrupt officials stationed at these posts.

During a visit to Lebombo Port of Entry/Exit it was found that some criminals even go as far as to carry motorcycles in suitcases or bags across the border.

[Information accredited to the South African Insurance Crime Bureau]

Conclusion and Advice to Vehicle owners

You might not be able to do anything to improve our border control of prevent fraud at our licensing department or border posts. What you might be able to do is to protect your vehicle from ending up in the hands of criminals.

We would like to urge all vehicle owners to view the following sections:

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