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CRIME

Hundreds of stolen car parts seized

The SOKO KFZ (Special Commission for cars) has seized 385 stolen engines, 254 vehicle parts and two disassembled luxury vehicles with a value of more than €10 million, from an organization calling itself motorenprofi.at in Styria.

Hundreds of stolen car parts seized
Detail of some of the stolen vehicle parts. Photo: APA

The main suspect, who is reported to have sold the goods over the internet, has already fled the country according to Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

Austrian authorities received a tip-off from a police station in Passau, Germany. Police there noticed that hundreds of engines and vehicles parts were being auctioned off on eBay by someone calling themselves motorenprofi.at. 

Investigators from SOKO were able to identify 30 stolen vehicles from the pictures on eBay. After making a fake purchase they were able to track down the suspect in Styria. The Interior Ministry said he has been involved in 291 car thefts. 

The main suspect, identified as 31-year old Andreas W., had already fled by the time police began to look for him – as he was also being pursued for non-payment of tax. He went to Budapest, then Qatar and onto the Philippines – where until recently he was still selling stolen car parts online. 
 
"It's only a matter of time before we apprehend him," SOKO boss Rainer Erhart said. 
 
Andreas W. is part of a larger network, police said. Cars are stolen in Germany, Italy and France and delivered by trucking companies to Poland. Andreas W. then bought parts of the gutted cars and sold them via various Internet sites. 
 
Christian Stella, Deputy Director of the Austrian National Police, said that criminals are increasingly selling on stolen cars as parts as it has become much harder to sell them in one piece, because police have become so much better at tracking them down. 
 
In 2009 a total of 9,289 cars were reported stolen in Austria, which prompted the government to set up the SOKO in Eisenstadt to investigate car thefts. This is their biggest case so far. 

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CRIME

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

An Austrian court on Monday sentenced a people smuggler to seven years in prison over the deaths of two Syrians who suffocated in the crammed minivan he was driving, Austria's news agency reported.

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

The bodies of the two men were discovered last October when Austrian authorities stopped and searched a van at the border with Hungary.

Thirty people in total were crammed in the vehicle, whose driver fled the scene but was later arrested in Latvia and extradited.

The 19-year-old Latvian was found guilty of people smuggling and causing fatal injuries, but was not found guilty of murder, APA reported.

READ MORE: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

He said he would accept the verdict, but the prosecution can still appeal it, APA said.

A court spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by AFP. 

Austria’s interior ministry announced in May that police had smashed a group believed to have smuggled tens of thousands of mostly Syrians, including the two found suffocated, from Hungary to Austria.

A total of 205 people suspected to be linked to the group have been arrested in central and eastern Europe, the ministry said.

Those smuggled, including children, were trying to reach western European countries, including Germany and France.

The October discovery of the dead men recalled a dire event in August 2015 when 71 people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan suffocated in the back of an air-tight van where they had been hidden by people smugglers.

The bodies, including those of three children and a baby, were discovered in Austria but they had died while still on the other side of the border.

Almost four years later, the Hungarian courts sentenced their smugglers to life imprisonment.

The emotion aroused by that tragedy triggered a brief opening of the borders to hundreds of thousands of people wishing to reach Western Europe.

But Austria and other European countries have since fortified borders to stop people smuggling.

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