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Mitsubishi promises clampdown on stolen imports

Mitsubishi Motors UK has admitted its franchised dealers will have serviced 'grey' imports stolen and imported to the UK by Japanese criminal gangs.

The admission comes after a police investigation - the subject of tonight's BBC Watchdog programme - revealed that between 60,000 and 100,000 used cars in the UK may have been stolen from Japan.

UK police and the Japanese authorities are now working together to find and return the vehicles. Their new UK owners have no ownership rights over a vehicle that is identified as stolen.

A Mitsubishi spokesman confirmed to AM-online that it was inevitable that its dealer network would have serviced these stolen vehicles.

"Around 10% of servicing by our dealers is on 'grey' imports and while that is a small amount it's bound to have included stolen vehicles. When a customer brings a 'grey' in we'll check that it's road-legal and meets emission standards, but there would normally be no reason to check the VIN which would show if it was stolen."

However, he said that with immediate effect all Mitsubishi dealers would check VIN numbers and will work with the police and DVLA to trace the stolen 'greys'.

"I hope this doesn't force owners of unofficially imports away from our dealers for servicing," the spokesman said.

While one of the biggest 'victims' of the unofficial import market and its fiercest critic Mitsubishi has opened up its service centres (May 2000) - and extended its new and used car warranty programmes - to 'greys'.

Our original story on the 'grey' fraud...

An investigation by the police, lasting two years, has uncovered evidence that up to 100,000 used cars in this country were stolen in Japan by criminal gangs for export.

The police found that in one UK county 90% of unofficial imports were stolen cars. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 unofficial imports in the UK are stolen vehicles.

In 2000, 85% of the 54,000 cars stolen in Japan ended up on UK roads. After being stolen the cars are shipped, many via Dubai where the cars' identity plates are changed, to this country where they are sold as nearly new vehicles.

Japanese insurance companies are now working with the UK police to recover the vehicles from their new and unsuspecting owners. Under English law, a person who has bought, even unknowingly, a stolen vehicle, has no legal entitlement to it.

The fraud is the subject of tonight's Watchdog programme on BBC1 at 7.30, entitled 'the biggest car fraud in the world'.

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