Organised crime groups responsible for stealing high-value vehicles from across the UK, including the north-east, have been dealt a major blow.
Forty-four vehicles in total, worth over £1.2million, were recovered as a result of the operation, which took place throughout last month.
Among them was a gold, Porsche Cayenne from Aberdeen which was recovered at Grangemouth, on its way to South Africa and a Ford Ranger from Elgin which was recovered at Felixstowe on its way to Burma.
The cars belonged to companies and had outstanding finance on them.
A further 18 were stolen from members of the public.
The sting is the result of a joint-operation between the National Crime Agency, Association of Chief Police Officers Vehicle Intelligence Service (ACVIS) and Border Force.
Officers targeted containers and trailer traffic at ports across the country throughout last month.
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.”
Cars are normally stolen to order, 4x4s are particularly popular, and then sent in a container of “personal goods” with cover loads such as furniture used to conceal them.
Last year, 90,000 cars were stolen in the UK, many of which will have been exported by organised crime gangs.