OVER 100 STOLEN vehicles from across London were handled by a team of two men – who sold them on as they were, as cloned vehicles or split them down and sold them as parts. Now the two have been arrested, tried, convicted – and sent to jail.
Ringleader Mantas Balciunas, 35, who lived in Somerset, was found guilty of handling stolen goods and conspiracy to handle stolen good and sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison.
Accomplice Liaqat Ali, 47, of Westrow Gardens, Ilford, was found guilty of conspirary to handle stolen goods. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
The men were identified after a Metropolitan Police Organised Vehicle Crime Unit investigation called Operation Hipsometer and convicted at Southwark Crown Court. Police estimate that the guilty pair handled over 100 vehicles worth over £1 million in an operation spanning five years.
Police identified Balciunas first. They obtained warrants to search his home and workplace – finding vehicles, motorbikes and parts in both places. They then realised that Ali was helping him. They searched his home and his business premises in Clockhouse Lane, Romford. Ali claimed to be running a number of businesses from this address, including a mini cab rental and repair service as well as a vehicle breaking and recovery yard. He also rented out shipping containers for storage purposes. Again, stolen vehicles and parts were found.
The two men were arrested in late 2017. They were charged in February 2018. Their trial began on 27th February and lasted until 15th March.
Detective Constable Gavin Smith of the Metropolitan Police Organised Vehicle Crime Unit, who led the investigation, said, “These two men ran a prolific and well-organised criminal enterprise. Ali had clearly been operating a safe haven to which stolen vehicles from across London were taken for a number of years, prior to our intervention. I hope [the] sentence serves as a deterrent to those involved in this type of brazen criminality and reminds them that we will not stop bringing those responsible to justice.”