Used car racket victims left fuming: ‘What are we supposed to do now?’

MaltaToday has been inundated by customers who discovered that the low mileage on second-hand car sold to them was anything but

A racket involving second-hand Japanese cars with tampered mileage has left hundreds of consumers fuming and feeling deceived by the two dealers under the spotlight.

Since revealing the racket last Sunday, MaltaToday has been inundated by customers who discovered that the low mileage on second-hand car sold to them was anything but.

“I can’t believe they sold me a car which was much older than how it was actually advertised,” one customer who came forward told this newspaper. “It was my first car and I had to take a loan for it. I’m shocked by what is being revealed.”

[EXCLUSIVE] Hundreds cheated in racket involving tampered mileage on Japanese second-hand car imports

Rokku Autodealer of Għaxaq and Tal-Qasab Autosales of Qormi are the car dealerships behind this racket but it remains to be seen whether others are also involved.

The tampering of mileage gauge is facilitated by lax controls when the cars are offloaded at the Grand Harbour and when dealers go to register the vehicles with Transport Malta.

In an exclusive report on Sunday, MaltaToday revealed how hundreds of consumers were sold second-hand Japanese cars with tampered mileage gauges.

Rokku Autodealer is operated by Roderick Vella and Tal-Qasab Autosales is operated by brothers Chris Spiteri and Alex Spiteri. Both have denied wrongdoing and have refrained from commenting.
However, in initial comments to MaltaToday before referring the matter to his lawyer, Vella blamed the story on other dealers who were trying to tarnish his name. “I don’t stand to benefit from such acts.”

But despite his denials, when contacted by customers over the mileage discrepancy, Vella is telling them to go to his shop so that a solution can be reached.

MaltaToday is informed that some customers have returned their vehicle and have been given monetary compensation. But this is not the case for all customers, with some still in disbelief over the auto dealers’ deceit.

A couple who wished to remain anonymous had each bought a Mazda Demio from Tal-Qasab, but when comparing the original JEVIC certificate to the log book details, they found a discrepancy of 51,000km and 25,000km respectively.

Another customer who reached out to this newspaper said he was sold a Toyota Regius van that was advertised at 98,470km by Rokku Autodealer. The JEVIC data base showed that in fact the truck actually had 266,751km on it – a discrepancy of almost 170,000km.

“This is incredible,” he said, letting out a string of expletives when he found out about the extent of the deceit.

One customer who was sold a Mazda Demio Skyactive by Rokku, said she had bought the car at €10,000, after it was advertised at 27,000km. In fact, the JEVIC certificate showed a mileage of around 84,000km.

“It looked like a bargain but what am I supposed to do? I will be speaking to my lawyer, but if he sold hundreds of cars like this, how can we expect any sort of compensation?” she said.

For his 19th birthday, one customer who reached out to this newspaper had bought a Suzuki Swift from Rokku, which was being advertised at 40,000km. When carrying out the verifications, the JEVIC certificate showed an actual mileage of 118,000km.

“He screwed me over big time. Let’s say he compensates me for the car, what if I want to resell it? Am I supposed to screw people over in the same way he screwed me?” he said. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

The list of customers who were duped by the racket goes on, and as the days go by, more people are facing the realisation that they were sold a car that was tampered with.

Victims of two car dealers who were sold vehicles with tampered mileage are being urged to contact the consumer authority with details of their case as numbers balloon.

The appeal was made by Consumer Protection Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli and the association representing used car importers.

Farrugia Portelli called on people who have found evidence of tampering on their Japanese-imported cars’ odometer to file a complaint with the Consumer Affairs Authority. Consumers can file an online complaint or call 8007 4400.

Albert Fenech, secretary-general of UVIA has told MaltaToday the association will be meeting all its members individually, to ensure that their reputation remains untarnished.

“UVIA also encourages any car owners with suspicions pursuant to what is being alleged in the media, to verify their odometer readings and to speak to the authorities if any odometer tampering is suspected,” Fenech said.

The police are also investigating the matter and people have been urged to file a report on discrepancies in odometer readings at their nearest police station.

MaltaToday understands that more than 300 case files have been lifted by the police from Transport Malta, however, sources have said that none of the two alleged fraudsters have yet been questioned by the police.

The two suspect dealers are being represented by lawyer Franco Debono, who in comments to MaltaToday said his clients were not releasing any statements at this stage.

Consumers can check for themselves whether the car they have been sold was tampered with by accessing the online JEVIC database, where original details, including mileage, are listed before the car left Japan.

If the mileage listed in the database is higher than the mileage registered on the logbook at the moment of transfer to the customer than the vehicle was tampered with.