Range Rover
Gangsters attempted to ship luxury cars to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe NCA

Gangsters who stole luxury vehicles including Porsches, BMWs and Range Rovers worth more than £1.2m tried shipping them abroad in huge containers.

The National Crime Agency recovered the multi-million pounds haul, which also included a Komatsu digger, sitting in containers and trailer traffic at ports across the UK.

Range Rovers Evoques, Audis, and a Porsche Cayenne were among the 44 vehicles recovered during September 2014 that were destined for African countries, Cyprus, France, the USA, Malaysia, and Burma.

Eighteen vehicles had been stolen from car owners in London, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Germany, and the Netherlands, while the remaining vehicles belonged to companies who owed outstanding finance on them.

Authorities including National Crime Agency, ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, and Border Force swooped on locations in Hull, Immingham, Grangemouth, London Gateway, Felixstowe, Tilbury, and Southampton. In addition to vehicles seized, officers also discovered a container of parts from at least 29 stolen BMWs.

Criminals stole an estimated 90,000 vehicles in the UK last year, with many being exported. Gangs usually steal vehicles to order with 4x4s being popular in countries because of the prestige and terrain.

It is relatively cheap to send a container of 'personal goods', and cover loads used to conceal vehicles include furniture or electrical equipment.

Methods often used to steal vehicles include keyless thefts, taking keys during burglaries, or the use of fraudulent documentation and cloned credit cards to hire vehicles or obtain them on finance.

Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA's Border Policing Command, said: "Exporting and selling stolen vehicles on the black market is a lucrative business for organised crime groups as they also avoid tax or import duties. We know some groups even pay for drug shipments with cars.

"This type of crime not only affects car owners but also manufacturers, insurance companies, and vehicle-related businesses such as rental companies and garages.

"Aside from reuniting members of the public and companies with their vehicles, this operation has enabled us to pursue crime groups who wrongly believe they can safely use container and trailer traffic to conceal stolen vehicles."