Odometer fraud: Dealers get three months’ police bail extension

Police bail for the used-car dealers who are facing allegations of odometer tampering has been extended by three months

File photo
File photo

Police bail for the used-car dealers who are facing allegations of odometer tampering has been extended by three months.

Sources told this newspaper that police investigations into the alleged fraud are still ongoing, seven months after MaltaToday revealed the racket.

The two dealerships – Rokku and Tal-Qasab – have seen their police bail renewed and are yet to be charged by the police.

In an exclusive report, this newspaper had revealed how hundreds of consumers have been sold second-hand Japanese cars with tampered mileage gauges, in a racket involving at least two car dealerships.

Cars bought from Japanese bidding markets on the cheap because of their high mileage, would then be sold in Malta – however these had their odometers tampered to show low mileages.

An exercise carried out by MaltaToday on a sample of 18 cars flagged by multiple industry sources, revealed discrepancies ranging between 30,000km and 130,000km between the original mileage and the one registered in Malta.

Crucially, industry sources told MaltaToday that the racket starts the moment the cars arrive in Malta: when they are offloaded at Laboratory Wharf in the Grand Harbour, the police have to fill in the Vehicle 5 (VEH 005) customs and police inspection form.

The manual form contains several fields, including one where the car’s dashboard mileage is listed.

However, it appeared that dealers often use the excuse that the car battery has been drained throughout their voyage at sea on the cargo ship, preventing the dashboard mileage from being read by the inspecting police officers.

In these instances, the inspector leaves the mileage field blank so that the dealer can fill it in later, when the car is restarted using a booster. Sources indicated that although there may be genuine cases of car batteries that fall flat, many times these would have been disconnected by the dealer.

Rokku and Tal-Qasab have continued to operate, despite being interrogated by the police last October. It is still unclear when, or if, they will be charged.

Following the MaltaToday investigation, Transport Malta increased its scrutiny of documentation presented by car dealers who import used vehicles from Japan.

The regulator has stepped in to supplant a process previously manned by police officers, to verify the mileage declared in documentation from importers, with data available in JEVIC databases.

Transport Minister Farrugia said the logbooks and other vehicle documentation connected to the case are in the process of being replaced and updated according to the actual mileage. “TM has sent a letter to anyone affected to inform them of this,” he said.