November 2, 2023

Auto Theft Exported: How Canadian Vehicles are Landing Overseas

Version française

Équité Association’s investigator uncovers Canadian Ford F150s from Edmonton located in Dubai.

Auto theft and insurance crime are well known to finance other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, arms dealing, and international terrorism. Addressing this worsening issue is an important step in keeping Canadians safe and stemming the flow of funds into organized crime.

As a result of this escalating problem, Canada has involuntarily become a source country for stolen vehicles that are illegally sold in order to finance other criminal activities (mentioned above) in our communities that only further endanger public safety.  

Équité Association supports Canadian property and casualty (P&C) insurers, working with members, local and international law enforcement, and partners to defend against insurance crime. When Canadian vehicles were found in Dubai by Global Trends (an organization dedicated to identifying and disrupting auto fraud outside of Canada), they reached out to Équité’s Sid Kingma, Director, Investigative Services, Western Canada, and invited him to Dubai.

The vehicles in question were part of an investigation Mr. Kingma had been working on in Canada. A group of thieves from Ontario, Canada, stole over 40 Ford F150s in Edmonton, Alberta. The thieves were arrested and only seven trucks were recovered in Canada. Mr. Kingma has been working with Edmonton Police and INTERPOL to locate the other F150s overseas. As part of his work, Mr. Kingma contacted an INTERPOL agent and provided vehicle identification information on the outstanding stolen F150s, which were entered into INTERPOL’s stolen vehicle database.

The stolen vehicles entered the United Arab Emirates (UAE), before being flagged by INTERPOL’s stolen vehicles database. Now that they have been located, Équité and Global trends are working to repatriate the vehicles with the assistance of local law enforcement and INTERPOL.

This particular case of stolen Canadian vehicles has developed positively; however, not all stolen Canadian vehicles found overseas can be repatriated. While in Dubai, Mr. Kingma also visited a used car dealership, which sourced all of their cars from Canada. He checked the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) of 15 vehicles in the lot and found that 14 of the vehicles were listed as stolen from Canada. Équité and its partners are working to develop a process to seize and repatriate stolen Canadian vehicles after they have been through customs and are in the marketplace.

Équité’s tri-party partnerships with local law enforcement and the CBSA at the Ports of Montreal and Halifax, work to stop stolen vehicles from being shipped out of Canada. Équité is also working with Interpol and its partners to flow data from Canada’s CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database into INTERPOL’s stolen vehicle database, which will assist in combating vehicle crime globally.

Prevention should be the first step in stopping auto theft. Équité calls on Transport Canada to adopt new anti-theft safety standards set out by UL Standards & Engagement (ULSE). The current theft prevention standards included in Canada's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations are outdated. These standards have not been updated since 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies were introduced in vehicles.

The national auto theft issue is escalating as organized crime groups are looking to Canada as low risk-high reward opportunities to fund drugs, guns and terrorism. Auto theft not only affects insurance premiums but also affects a community’s sense of safety. Insurance crime always has a victim, whether it is in our neighbourhoods, homes, or the fear and loss it leaves behind for individuals. It could affect anyone, at any time, often targeting the most marginalized in our society.

To learn more on how to protect your vehicle from being stolen, refer to the suggested layered approach.