POLICE have busted an Alicante Province gang that exported stolen cars to France following two-and-a-half years of investigations.

15 people have been arrested in a pain-staking three-phase operation with 17 vehicles recovered.

Vehicles were not returned after being acquired through rental or long-term lease contracts, or were simply stolen from car parks.

Bogus identities were used that made it hard to track down the criminals and the stolen cars.

Some of the vehicles were even leased out to drug gangs.

The Policia Nacional probe began in July 2020 when officers recovered a high-end car in Alicante that had been stolen from a Villajoyosa car park a few weeks earlier.

A similar vehicle had vanished from the same car park at the same time, leading police to believe they had stumbled on a major criminal enterprise.

Cars were not stolen at random but were tracked via GPS for a few days to work out the movements of the owner and where the vehicle was normally parked.

Specialist alarm inhibitors and cloned keys were then used in the robberies.

Vehicles were taken off to underground workshops and garages for a ‘cooling-off’ period during which the gang banked on police losing any interest in finding the stolen car in question.

All tracking devices were also disabled.

A new package of car documentation including bogus licence plates was created before a vehicle was sold either within Spain or abroad to mainly France.

Some cars were also imported into Spain and sold after repackaging to avoid paying IVA taxes as a way of laundering money from the operation.

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