Car-Voyage!: Stolen Canadian cars are ending up in Africa and the Middle East

Toronto, Ontario — What do you do when your car takes a vacation without you? Not only do car brands steal your data domestically, but according to a recent investigation done by CBC, stolen vehicles from Canada are increasingly being smuggled to countries in Africa and the Middle East.

During their investigation, CBC uncovered dozens of stolen cars from Ontario and Quebec in Ghana, the second-most populous country in West Africa. Of these stolen cars, many still had their Canadian registration documents with them as well as their Canadian license plates.

The vehicles were being sold through online channels–such as on social media sites–where potential buyers were often paying close to market price.

Michael Rothe, President of the Canadian Financing and Leasing Association (CFLA), told CBC: “we’ve become a global donor in stolen vehicles. From our perspective, it’s a lack of enforcement.”

According to the not-for-profit insurance industry group Équité Association, vehicle thefts in Canada soared in 2022, with both Quebec and Ontario seeing spikes of around 50 per cent, while Atlantic Canada saw an increase of more than 34 per cent.

The thefts are attributed to organized crime groups within the country such as Montreal-based groups who smuggle vehicles to the Port of Montreal to then be carried overseas.

While earlier this year, Peel Region Police were able to recover more than $10 million in stolen vehicles destined for Dubai in an effort entitled “Project R and R,” with the current trend of a vehicle being stolen approximately every six minutes, current recoveries are just a small drop in the wide ocean between Canada and the places those vehicles end up.

In June, the CFLA issued a report calling for a stronger national initiative to tackle the issue.

Rothe specifically stated that, “vehicle theft in Canada is rising exponentially, with organized crime becoming more adept at maintaining their revenue flow from stolen vehicles. We urgently need public education programs on theft prevention, the re-establishment of provincial auto theft teams, and protocols for reporting financed vehicles exported through identity theft.”

However, even with the beginnings of this push for stronger government and institutional initiative, at the present, criminals are still able to take advantage of outdated systems and there remains a long way to go before Canada is no longer inadvertently sending its vehicles on an often permanent overseas vacay.


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