Goodmayes man jailed for role in £1million stolen vehicle enterprise

Liaqat Ali. Picture: Met Police

Liaqat Ali. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

A Goodmayes man has been jailed for his part in flogging more than £1million in stolen motorbikes and vans.

Mantas Balciunas. Picture: Met Police

Mantas Balciunas. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Southwark Crown Court heard how police traced more than 100 stolen vehicles, valued in excess of £1m, to Liaqat Ali, of Westrow Gardens, and his 35-year-old accomplice Mantas Balciunas, from Somerset.

The pair handled the vehicles between April 2012 and September 2017, stolen through keyless car theft, robbery, test drive theft and burglary among other methods.

They were sometimes dismantled and sold on for parts or fitted with fake license plates and sold to unwitting eBay shoppers.

Det Con Gavin Smith, who led the Met’s Organised Vehicle Crime Unit’s investigation, said: “These two men ran a prolific and well-organised criminal enterprise.

Stolen vehicles seized from Balciunas' property. Picture: Met Police

Stolen vehicles seized from Balciunas' property. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

“Balciunas was prepared to go to great lengths to convince purchasers that they were purchasing a legitimate vehicle and our investigation linked the offenders to a substantial number of offences.

“Ali had clearly been operating a safe haven to which stolen vehicles from across London were taken for a number of years, prior to our intervention.

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“I hope today’s sentence serves as a deterrent to those involved in this type of brazen criminality and reminds them that we will not stop bringing those responsible to justice.”

The men were jailed following a major Met investigation - named “Operation Hipsometer” - into stolen bikes in vans across London which were later sold on Ebay.

Officers searched Balciunas’ home in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, where he sold the majority of stolen vehicles, on June 27 2017.

Parked outside his house was a stolen Mercedes Sprinter van, which Balciunas was in the process of converting into a camper van.

A second stolen cloned Sprinter van was also found parked nearby with parts from other similar vans recently stolen from Kent.

Officers then searched Balciunas’ work unit later that day, located on a remote farm in Frome, which was where the stolen motorcycles were stripped and where stolen van parts were stored.

A number of stolen Sprinter vans were found here, one of which was packed with a motorcycle swiped a few days before from Birmingham and another from Camden.

He sold more than 40 stolen motorcycles and Sprinter vans through three different eBay accounts between 2014 and 2017.

Detectives then established that Balciunas had been working with Ali, 47, and raided his business address in Clockhouse Lane, Collier Row, on September 19 2017, where even more stolen vehicle parts were found.

Ali was operating a number of businesses from this yard including a mini cab rental and repair service, vehicle breakers, vehicle recovery and a storage facility comprising of shipping containers for rent.

An etching machine, designed to etch vehicle identity numbers (VINs) was recovered from one of the containers linked to Balciunas.

Both men were found guilty of conspiracy to handle stolen goods following a three week trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Balciunas was also convicted of handling stolen goods.

The pair were jailed on Friday (April 12), Balciunas for seven-and-a-half years and Ali for four years and three months.