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Plant recovery

A telematics product company reports that it has helped to recover hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of plant and machinery that was stolen in the UK and shipped to the Middle East earlier this year.

By using a relatively new technique known as ‘fake hiring’, criminals used bogus organisations to steal equipment from plant hire companies in the UK.

Some of the stolen equipment had been fitted with tracking devices by Essex-based Enigma Telematics. Having been alerted to thefts experienced by two of its customers, Enigma used its flagship Skyline tracking system to establish that some stolen machinery had passed through the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. Pictured: Mini excavators are unloaded from one of the two containers returned to Felixstowe.

The port handles more than 3.4 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers and takes over 4,000 ships each year. Despite the fact that Felixstowe is the UK’s busiest container port and the 35th busiest in the world, the location data provided by Enigma was used to pinpoint the location of some of the stolen machinery.

Although the equipment had now left Felixstowe, the data provided by Enigma let Port of Felixstowe Police establish the destination of the three containers housing the stolen equipment. One was bound for Saudi Arabia and the other two were destined for Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, East Africa.

Acting on the information, Port of Felixstowe Police exercised its power to order the ship bound for Saudi Arabia to offload the stolen container in a non-destination port, Salalah in the Oman. The container was then returned to Felixstowe on a separate vessel. The two other containers reached Dar es Salaam but were seized on arrival. One has since been returned to the UK; the other is currently being held at customs in Tanzania but should be returned soon.

When the two returned containers were opened on their arrival back in the UK, they were found to contain more stolen equipment than was first thought. A first container received back at Felixstowe was found to hold six generators, valued at around £125,000. The second TEU contained three excavators, two generators and two dumper trucks, with a combined value estimated at between £150,000 and £175,000.

Detective Constable Nick Shrubshall, ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, who is responsible for trying to prevent stolen vehicles being shipped out of the Port of Felixstowe, said: “The recovery of this stolen equipment is a fantastic result. Technological advancements mean that telematics is an increasingly powerful tool in the fight against plant and machinery theft and we hope that similar successes will be achieved in the future.”

The intelligence provided by Enigma also directed PANIU, the Metropolitan Police’s specialist Plant and Agriculture Unit, to investigate a site in Kent that the unit was already aware of as possibly being connected to related crime. Simon Keam-George, Business Development Manager at Enigma Telematics said, “The theft of plant and machinery is undoubtedly a global problem. It would have been easy to think that once the stolen goods had left the UK, then it would be too difficult to recover them but at Enigma, we believe in pushing the boundaries of what is achievable with telematics technology and this is a great example of what is possible.”

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