GRAND THEFT AUTO: Thieves drive off dock with Mercs worth R4m

Thieves posing as employees of a local vehicle logistics company stole three luxury German sedans worth an estimated R4-million from the docks at the East London harbour this week.

The brazen theft of the vehicles from the West Bank side of the harbour took place at 9.50am on Wednesday, not long after a cargo ship carrying dozens of Mercedes-Benz vehicles from Germany docked at the car terminal.

Police officials said the stolen vehicles included two C-Class models and one E-Class. They did not specify which models were stolen but the East London-based Mercedes-Benz South Africa plant does not manufacture the AMG C63 and C63 S models which retail for R1 153 787 and R1 294 995 respectively.

None of the E-Class models are manufactured locally either, however the Saturday Dispatch has reliably learnt the stolen model was an E400, which retails for around R900000.

Employees from East London based CAT-WWL Logistics, a company contracted by Mercedes-Benz SA to drive vehicles from the port for despatch to intended customers, were due to accept the consignment of luxury vehicles.

East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said six men arrived at the harbour claiming to be company employees and asked to take the vehicles.

Mqala said three of the six were in “work uniform” while the others were wearing civilian clothing.

“They pretended to be workers for a broker company that supplies Mercedes-Benz with drivers to drive the vehicles from the harbour to the preferred destination.

“Only the three people who were wearing uniforms were allowed to take three vehicles,” Mqala said.

She said a case of motor vehicle theft had been opened on Wednesday morning at the Fleet Street Police Station.

“The person who reported the matter to police said the three vehicles were worth a combined R4-million,” said Mqala.

“There have not been any arrests at the moment and the cars have not yet been recovered.”

Police appealed to anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity at the harbour on Wednesday morning to come forward or call Fleet Street Police Station on 043-707-0687 or phone 08600-10111. All information will be treated as confidential Mqala said.

A police source who asked not to be named as he does not have permission to speak to the media, said the vehicles were probably still in South Africa up until yesterday.

“After stealing a car, there’s usually a 48-hour cooling off period where the thieves will leave the car to make sure the vehicles are not being tracked.

“If safe to do so, they will then take the cars over the border to countries like Lesotho or Mozambique where they will likely have a connection to get them over the border.”

Both MBSA and CAT-WWL Logistics would not to divulge any information other than confirm the theft when contacted for comment.

Asanda Fongqo, a spokesman for MBSA based at the East London plant, said there was little they could say on the matter.

“The matter is under investigation by the police,” he said.

CAT-WWL Logistics East London branch manager Morne Ferreira said: “No comment. Police are investigating.”

Information on the company’s website show it is also contracted by Renault SA, Volkswagen SA, Toyota SA, BMW SA, Nissan SA, Suzuki Auto SA and Transnet Freight Rail. — zwangam@dispatch.co.za

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