Three months on, police still investigating odometer fraud

The police’s investigation into odometer fraud by used car importers is still ongoing three months after MaltaToday broke the story about the racket

The police’s investigation into odometer fraud by used car importers is still ongoing three months after MaltaToday broke the story about the racket.

Hundreds of consumers were sold second-hand cars imported from Japan 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 be sold in Malta with dashboard gauges showing low mileage.

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

At least two car dealers used the services of a garage in San Gwann to tamper with the odometer and then falsify documentation issued by the Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (JEVIC), duping consumers into believing the second-hand car they are being sold is of low mileage.

“Kindly note that Police investigations are still on going, therefore at this stage it wouldn’t be prudent to divulge further information,” a police spokesperson told MaltaToday this week.

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Earlier this week, independent candidate Arnold Cassola also revealed a letter sent to him by SBT Japan, a leading global exporter of used cars, announcing they are no longer doing business with Rokku and Tal-Qasab auto dealers.

Cassola made that information public on Wednesday and circulated an email exchange he had with SBT sales manager Adeel Khan.

In the email, Khan told him that he was aware of the odometer tampering scandal and considered the behaviour of the two car dealers to be “a very foul practice to follow”.   

JEVIC also told MaltaToday earlier this year that it is working with regulators to minimise fraudulent activity: “JEVIC have looked into this issue, noting that our system holds the original Japan inspection data and that fraudulent activity allegedly occurred after the vehicles had arrived in Malta.”

Consumer protection minister Julia Farrugia Portelli also said the majority of complaints regarding the racket have been resolved. “We helped more than 80% of all cases that have come forward to receive adequate compensation. I am also aware that there is a last attempt ongoing for the remaining percentage to be resolved.”

Many times, the form of compensation is either cash or else a car equivalent in value to the car consumers should have been given to start with, she said.

But none of these filed complaints have been taken to tribunal for resolution

“Up until now, I am informed that there were no cases that have been taken to tribunal, and that is why we need to ensure that this process is respected. I also understand that the competent authorities, such as the police, are conducting the necessary investigations, as such a case also merits to be investigated from that aspect,” she had said in August.

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