Does the audacious theft of a humble Vauxhall Cascada in the Netherlands represent a new phase in car crime? Meanwhile, Mercedes reveals its lavish launch plans in the Algarve.
ADVENTURE CASCADA: INTERCONTINENTAL ROAD TRIP NETHERLANDS TO IRAQ.
Cars stolen in Utrecht turn up 220 miles north of Baghdad.
Many cars stolen in Europe end up in West or Central Asia. Before Christmas a Porsche and a Land Rover found in a shipping container in Lithuania were en route to Afghanistan.
A couple of days after that 200 cars taken in Germany turned up in Tajikistan (allegedly being driven by people connected to the ruling party).
Earlier this month the Uzbek authorities announced a further 20 luxury vehicles, all stolen in the EU and due to cross the border into Tajikistan, had been discovered on a train from Latvia.
Most intercontinental vehicle crime is committed by organised gangs who forge documents en masse and move them around in bulk. But an extraordinary 2,900 mile journey undertaken by an Opel Cascada and VW Golf convertible recently shows it happens on a small scale too, and is no less sophisticated. Exactly how the thieves – almost – got away with it in this case is still a mystery.
The entire saga is currently being turned into a book (and possibly a film too), but to cut a long story short the two cars were taken from a rental agency near Utrecht, driven overland to Kurdistan in northern Iraq and eventually recovered by their determined owner.
Not only did they pass through four separate border checks (Schengen-Romania-Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey) but when they arrived in Arbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad, their satellite trackers were immediately removed. Small scale or not, this was no opportunistic theft.
And what is it about the Netherlands? Within Europe it’s just about the furthest point from Kurdistan. For the first time in a decade, car thefts increased there last year, up 3% to 11,700 while the percentage of cars returned to their owners fell from 46% to 43%. Are they all being taken on intercontinental road trips?
Also, 07.02.14: a German man is suing police, alleging they failed to act fast enough when his rented BMW 7-series was stolen in 2006. The car was tracked to Italy but spirited to Syria before police intervened.