Rent-a-car operator nabbed for selling hired cars on forged papers

  • Hired vehicle reported to police as ‘stolen’
By Damith Wickremasekara

A fraudulent operation by a rent-a-car operator, who sold hired vehicles on forged papers, after reporting to the police, the vehicles had been stolen, has been busted by the police, with the help of a businessman.

The breakthrough came after a businessman from Nugegoda felt suspicious on inspecting a car, advertised in a newspaper, for sale for Rs. two million, whereas its market price was Rs. four million.The businessman in turn had got in touch with the Mirihana police.

SI Ajith Mettananda

“Acting on information, a police team called the phone number given in the advertisement and got the vehicle to a location in Maharagama,” Sub Inspector (SI) Ajith Mettananda who was involved in the investigations, told the Sunday Times.

He said the driver of the vehicle, along with three others were arrested. “Investigations revealed that a businessman operating this rent-a-car service was behind the racket,” he said. The modus operandi was to hire a vehicle for the rent-a-car service and, two to three months later, report the vehicle as stolen.

The owner of the rent-a-car service himself would lodge the complaint of the supposedly stolen vehicle with the police and would be very keen on finding the vehicle.

Then the rent-a-car service owner would produce forged copies of complaints lodged with the police, for which he had forged rubber seals and receipt books among other items, at the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV), to obtain copies of the ‘stolen’ vehicle’s documents from the RMV. He also had forged letters of vehicle transactions.

There were over 20 complaints lodged with the police by this particular rent-a-car operator that vehicles hired by him had gone missing. The complaints were from Kandy, Mt. Lavina, Panadura, Kadugannawa, Talangama, Homagama and Athurugiriya.

Police found at least eight luxury vehicles which had been hired by the rent-a-car service sold to unsuspecting buyers. He had a specially assigned team to market the vehicles. Most of the vehicles were sold in the outstations to avoid suspicion. Of course, once the transaction was over, the mobile phone SIM cards used to make the transactions are thrown away, while the addresses and identity card numbers given were false. SI Mettananda said that most of the new owners of the ‘stolen’ vehicles became suspicious of their transaction only when they called over at the RMV to register their vehicles or to transfer them.

Greater Colombo Deputy Inspector General I.M. Karunaratne told the Sunday Times that there had been several similar complaints against rent-a-car operators. “We have started an operation to check vehicles used by these companies,” he said.

He said that it was advisable for those who hire vehicles to these companies to regularly check whether the vehicle is available with the company. “Also, if a person is buying a vehicle, it is always better to check its registration with the RMV. If there is any doubt, report the matter to the police,” he said.

Some of the vehicles in custody at the Mirihana Police station. Pix by Athula Devapriya
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