Ring of Smart Parts Thieves Broken Up in Portugal

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Smart ForTwo stripped by thieves, photo from +Motores

Smart ForTwo stripped by thieves, photo from +Motores

Police in Oporto, Portugal, have announced the arrest of a gang of not-very-smart Smart thieves, along with the seizure of thousands of separate parts and four stolen Smart cars found in a garage near the Bonfim area.

That workshop, which was dedicated to sales of parts, repairs, and used Smart cars, has been closed by court order. Police also seized a large number of steering wheels for the cars.

Investigators say they now know more details about the modus operandi of the group. The thieves operated alone, carrying only a backpack with some tools. To disassemble a Smart, it appears, requires only a few hexagonal wrenches, some screwdrivers, and a set of keys.

The used Smarts, rebuilt from stolen vehicles and parts, were selling on the black market at prices of around $8,500 (6500 euros) after new chassis numbers were assigned to them.

Smart ForTwo stripped by thieves, photo from +Motores

Smart ForTwo stripped by thieves, photo from +Motores

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The theft of the steering wheels was a highly profitable business, since a new one has a price around $910 (700 euros) on average. Victims of Smart parts theft sometimes bought back their stolen steering wheels at a lower price.

The alleged perpetrators were aged between 22 and 45, one of them serving a sentence in prison for another crime.

The arrests are the culmination of Operation Umbraque (named after the hex key used to disassemble the small car) started in March 2009. That was when the theft of Smart parts in the Portugese areas of Oporto, Aveiro, and Braga began to grow in number, hinting at the involvement of organized crime.

This is not the first time the little Smart ForTwo minicars have been involved in regrettable behavior. Amsterdam faced a rash of 'Smart dunking' incidents last summer, as inebriated young people tipped the light cars into that city's picturesque canals.


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