09:00AM, Friday 13 June 2014
An international luxury car smuggling ring that netted an estimated £5m - and involved a crooked Maidenhead garage owner - has been smashed by police.
Members of the crime syndicate, including Andrew Murray from Bannard Road, have been hauled before the courts after a two-year operation that involved 200 police officers at its peak.
Murray's Berkshire High Performance Bodyshop in Reform Road was used to 'prep' top-of-the-range cars for thieves to snatch.
Targeted vehicles serviced at the site were fitted with tracking devices and had their keys copied so they could be snatched.
The thieves used the same tactics to swipe hire cars and vehicles valet parked near airports.
Police estimate the network raked in £5m between 2011-13 with 28 cars taken and attempts to take five more.
A McLaren Mercedes and Range Rover were both snatched after they had been worked on at the bodyshop run by Murray, 50.
Three others had been ‘prepped’ for theft at the site.
Most of the motors taken from locations across the country were Land Rovers. They would be shipped abroad and sold.
Receipts were recovered showing the gang had spent €250,000 on sending vehicles to Africa.
Acting Detective Sergeant Andy Hanage, from Thames Valley Police's Serious organised crime unit, said Murray was identified as part of Operation Sorrel, launched to crack the sophisticated crime network.
DS Hanage said: "He was allowing vehicles which he had in his temporary possession to have extra keys created and trackers fitted.”
“We had evidence that a number of vehicles which have gone into the bodyshop legitimately were then stolen weeks later on.”
He said a raft of evidence brought the gang to justice and the painstaking operation required 'laborious legwork'.
On Friday a Reading Crown Court jury found Murray guilty of conspiracy to steal vehicles after an 11-week trial.
Amran Iqbal, 39, of Derby Road, Beeston, was also found guilty of the same charges as Murray.
Halfway through the trial Irfan Rehman, 41, of New Bedford Road, Luton, admitted the same charge.
In October Khalid Mahmood, 35, of Duffield Lane, Stoke Pokes, admitted conspiring to steal and export motor vehicles.
All four will be sentenced in September.
Berkshire High Performance Bodyshop has since changed its name.
The Advertiser contacted the garage this week. A member of staff said Murray no longer owns the business.
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Police raided addresses in Lillibrooke Crescent, Cox Green, and in Crown Lane, Farnham Royal, at about 7.15am.