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MANZINI – The import car dealership industry is being choked out of business by an organised syndicate which is stealing a precious metal that costs 15 times the price of gold in cars.

The precious metal that the thieves are after is tucked into almost all vehicles and is known as a catalytic converter. The converter has a honeycomb-like interior — coated with precious metals like palladium, rhodium and platinum — that scrub the worst toxic pollutants from the car’s exhaust. One of the dealers to feel the pinch of the rising scourge was the Director of Umar Motors, Muhammad Aamir. The businessman claimed that yesterday, when resuming business after the long weekend, he discovered that thieves had vandalised his yet to be sold cars, which resulted in a loss he supposed was about E50 000. Aamir said when he came into his yard; he assumed all was well until a customer came into his dealership seeking to procure a vehicle. He said after the exchange of pleasantries and the enquiry by his client, he collected keys to switch on the ignition of the vehicle.


Just when he did that, Aamir claimed that the sound coming from the engine was too loud. Out of curiosity, the businessman said, he switched on the ignition of the other cars and the same thing happened. As this happened, Aamir claimed that he lost out on the sale as the client left. According to the entrepreneur, after the client had left, he inspected what could be the cause of this strange noise and discovered that thieves had stolen catalytic converters. In total, the businessman said 11 vehicles were vandalised by the thieves, which when he calculated tallied to about E50 000. Subsequent to this, Aamir said he inspected the dealership’s yard whereupon he discovered that the thugs had cut off the fence to gain entry. The businessman said leading to being a victim of this act; he had gathered that other car dealerships had also suffered the same fate as thieves made away with catalytic converters. Just the other week, another businessman found that about E100 000 worth of the converters had been stolen from his dealership.


He said at first, as car dealerships, they always thought that the vehicles had mechanical faults and would fix them. The cost of replacing the catalytic converter, according to Aamir, ranged between E4 000 and E7 000.
“If the car had a funny sound, we’d take it to the mechanic and have it fixed. The mechanics would charge us large sums and we did not know this was the reason our cars were having challenges,” Aamir said. He said it came to their attention that a syndicate was behind the theft of the catalytic converters early in the year when one of the dealership owners was contacted late at night and informed that there was activity in his compound. Aamir claimed that upon arrival at the compound, the businessman discovered that there were people dismantling the catalytic converters while the security guard was making sure that they ‘steal undisturbed’.


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