Illegal MoT trade ‘worth pounds 7m a year’

Author: JASON BENNETTO

BARRY said it would take a couple of days to get the stolen MoT certificates. ‘It’s not a problem – several people I know are selling them,’ he explained on his mobile phone. They would cost pounds 35 each and could be picked up from a ‘quiet little pub’ in north London.

But, he asked, why bother getting blank certificates? Why not go to a garage and pay about pounds 40 for an MoT, no questions asked, no vehicles checked? Barry could recommend three or four suitable backstreet businesses.

The trade in bogus certificates is big business. Last year the illegal sale of MoTs is estimated to have netted at least pounds 7m. The number of documents stolen has risen to a record number from about 150,000 last year to more than 170,000 in the past eight months.

It was a routine inquiry into a complaint about an MoT certificate that led Simon Bruno, 28, and Alan Singleton, 56, two Department of Transport inspectors, to visit a garage in Stockport, Greater Manchester, last Monday. As they examined papers in the office at Chestergate Auto Centre, a man walked in and killed them with a single shot to the head from a 12-bore shotgun.

One of the garage owners, Thomas Bourke, 31, of Bramhall Lane, south Stockport, was charged with their murder on Friday. He was remanded in custody yesterday during a hearing at Stockport magistrates’ court. His brother, Walter, 36, the joint garage owner, was also remanded in custody. He was charged with impeding the course of justice.

Due to the increase in break-ins and thefts of certificates, the DoT issued a special notice in September to all 18,000 MoT centres ordering them to tighten their security. They now have to keep blank certificates and the garage’s embossing stamp in a safe secured to the floor. Printing methods have also been altered to make forgery more difficult.

Despite these changes, criminals are continuing to target garages for MoT certificates and their stamps. Explosives have been used to open safes and break through concrete floors. Many of the certificates are used by car thieves to help legitimise stolen vehicles. Fraudulent test certificates sell for pounds 40 to pounds 60 but for an HGV can be as much as pounds 1,000.

Detective Sergeant George Taylor, of Northumbria Police’s stolen vehicles squad, said: ‘There’s quite a trade in buying MoTs because it adds a lot of value to a stolen car. Some criminals break into garages for the certificates as part of a network involving stolen cars.’

DS Taylor added that there were garages willing, for a bribe of about pounds 40, to turn a blind eye to cars with faults and give an MoT certificate. MoT testing station staff have also been known to sell certificates, which come in booklets of 100, and then report them stolen.

A spokesman for the Vehicle Inspectorate, which is part of the DoT, said there was evidence to suggest that organised gangs of criminals were involved in the theft and distribution of stolen certificates.

Paul Noon, assistant general secretary of IPMS, the union that represents vehicle inspectors, said there was growing concern among his members about the rise in violence connected within their work. ‘The job is just the same, but the world has changed, particularly the prevalence of firearms.’ The Retail Motor Industry Federation has called on the Government to replace the paper certificates with ‘smart cards’, which it believes would provide greater security. But its spokesman, Geoff Dossetter, stressed that the number of certificates stolen was tiny in relation to the 13 million certificates awarded each year.

Jake, a young man from Croydon, south London, who ‘deals’ with cars, explained that it was not necessary to use a stolen certificate to to get a vehicle through an MoT. He said: ‘If you’ve got an old battered car it would cost about pounds 100 to buy a certificate from a garage, but something that looks decent is only about pounds 35. They’ll just write you a certificate – no one checks your lights, brakes, or anything.’

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