KUALA LUMPUR: Four men, all hiding abroad, have been identified as the main players involved in car theft rings operating in Malaysia.
Details on three of the four suspects are sketchy but the fourth has been detected enjoying a life of luxury in a neighbouring country.
A police source said the 45-year-old suspect had been identified as having a diverse range of business interests including used-car shops and hotels.
"The suspect's business interests is a perfect front for his illegal activities as his used-car outlets are used to dispose of the stolen vehicles," said the source.
It is learnt that the suspect owns used-car shops in Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Myanmar.
Police investigations revealed that the suspect purchased stolen vehicles from local car thieves for between RM7,000 and RM30,000 before exporting the vehicles through shipping containers.
Once the stolen vehicles reached their destinations, the engine and chassis numbers were tampered with before the cars were sold to unsuspecting customers.
It was also learnt that the suspect also owned prime tracts of real estate and a yacht.
His activities came to light recently when a raid by a Customs team at Port Klang uncovered eight vehicles in containers marked as furniture about to be loaded on to a ship bound for Batam, Indonesia.
Four people were arrested in that operation and following interrogation of the suspects, the mastermind was uncovered.
A joint task force was formed by federal police headquarters and Selangor police to track down the mastermind and his accomplices.
The man, who began his "career" 20 years ago stealing cars, has several convictions and has served time in prison.
Using his "experience on the ground", he decided to co-ordinate the shipping of vehicles to foreign destinations.
In 2003, he was picked up by police and banished to Perak but continued to run his "empire" with the aid of computers and mobile phones before deciding to set up shop in the neighbouring country.
Although details were not available on the other three main players, it was reliably learnt that their activities are similar to that of the suspect.
"They are all hiding abroad and have diversified their business interests into loan-sharking activities and other legal ventures.
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