The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Second-hand car mileage scam: Police in ‘constant contact’ with Transport Malta

Rachel Attard Sunday, 3 July 2016, 09:30 Last update: about 9 years ago

The Police are actively pursuing the imported second-hand car mileage scam uncovered by this newspaper last month.

The racket perpetrated by what is believed to have been a handful of second-hand car dealers may have seen hundreds of consumers being defrauded when they purchased cars after their odometers were tampered with in order to give lower mileage readings.

Contacted by this newspaper, the Police stated that they are in “constant contact” with Transport Malta over the case, while the latter is in the process of “collecting the relative data in connection with these allegations”.

It is believed that the force is waiting for Transport Malta to conclude its data collection and analysis exercise before launching formal investigations, which would include questioning second-hand car importers implicated in the scam and possibly arraigning the perpetrators in court.

Once that comes to pass, it will stir up a hornet’s nest as people who had purchased cars and whose odometers had been tampered with could make claims against the dealers for full or at least partial refunds on what they paid for the vehicles, in what would inevitably prove to be a laborious and lengthy legal procedure.

Although it has not yet been established how long the scam has been in place, Transport Malta confirmed last month that it has been going on for a number of years.

Speaking to this newspaper last month, Transport Malta explained, “New procedures put in place by Transport Malta uncovered discrepancies in odometer readings, which date back years.”

Asked why the public had not been informed of the possibility that such a scam, which involves hundreds, if not thousands, of imported second-hand cars may have been perpetrated against consumers, Transport Malta told this newspaper that it had “started investigating the reasons for such discrepancies, which may result from tampering with odometers to human error”.

This newspaper had gone to Transport Malta after it received information that certain car dealers would import second-hand cars with high mileage, which were, as such, subject to correspondingly lower registration taxes.

However, when the time came to sell the imported vehicles, the cars’ odometers would be tampered with to make the mileage much lower than that which had been declared – hence fetching a higher price from customers.

Regulations in place before 2016 had not required cars’ odometer readings to be inputted during Vehicle Roadworthiness Tests (VRTs), which meant the mileages could not be verified.

But when the procedures were changed in January this year, Transport Malta set in motion an exercise which easily identifies which cars had their odometer tampered with. Such data would then need to be followed up with the importer who had originally brought the car to Malta.

The scam was reported to the Ministry for Transport, which, in turn, asked Transport Malta to investigate the matter further.

Asked by this newspaper why the scam had not been immediately reported to the police to proceed with a fraud investigation, and why Transport Malta had begun investigating the allegations itself, a spokesperson told this newspaper, “Instead of confiscating cars from hundreds of owners, TM started going through manual records to collect information and investigate the issue more in-depth.

“The Police were informed of the internal investigations TM is conducting and have been briefed about the matter. TM is not excluding further steps should the internal investigations confirm that odometers have been tampered with.”

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