According to a startling discovery made by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, many high end luxury models like Lamborghinis, Rolls Royce, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Hummers and Ferraris purchased in India by individuals with high networth, including businessmen, Bollywood stars and top politicians, were actually stolen cars from South African and European countries.
The DRI recently seized around 40 of these vehicles. The operation is allegedly headed by Sumit Walia, who is a resident of Delhi’s upscale Vasant Vihar colony and currently absconding, according to investigators. Sumit’s father, who has not been linked to this syndicate, has his own auto workshop located in Delhi. A locker full of expensive mobiles and watches with a value of Rs.3 crore was found at Sumit’s house.
The DRI said that the cars were imported by fake invoices. Even as buyers appear unaware about the stolen nature of their cars as the vehicles were registered by them, they could still be impounded, with most of the vehicles being above Rs.1.5 crore. The DRI official stated that there is the possibility of many more stolen vehicles being found, estimating the number to around 300 to 400.
They will only be aware of the wide criminal network and the whole operation, after they get apprehend Sumit Walia. Only last year, Scotland Yard, discovered a similar operation where thieves would sell stolen cars from England to Cyprus and then sell them in the Indian market.
Walia would apparently identify buyers through his agent network, and would get stolen vehicles from these networks located in Dubai and Europe, depending on their demand back home. Fake import papers and invoices were then prepared. While the cars from Ireland and UK are right-handed to suit Indian drivers, left-handed cars were changed into right-hand ones in Dubai workshops.
The DRI has also not ruled out the participation of embassies, after a 2 crore Aston Martin was imported for an Indian customer by an embassy. The car was later on seized, with the diplomat and beneficiary involved being questioned.
A senior official from DRI said that many of the stolen cars had been registered in UK, while fake invoices were being generated to export them to India. In many cases, they alleged that the stolen cars already had their insurances claimed, as they were being sold over here. While these cars were imported mostly from UK, others were from Dubai, which is a known transfer point for stolen cars from South Africa.
The DRI has already seized the fake invoices. They are in contact with these countries transport authorities. Investigations are still going on; however, it will be a while before they match these thefts with a particular car and its fake invoice. Investigators are questioning many celebrities who purchased these cars, while recovering invoices from Gurgaon, Chandigarh and Delhi transport authorities, were they were registered.
These fake invoices also had the income tax officials interested. They have started their own corresponding investigation on the people who possess private jets and imported cars. They are also checking the wealth tax returns of these people. The DG of Income Tax intelligence has been sending communications to those in other departments regarding any information on importers of private jets and luxury vehicles.