Sunday, July 10, 2016

Police dismantle 'Black Axe' vehicle theft ring

In late 2015 police filed a total of 640 charges against members of a criminal organization that they say stole more than 500 luxury SUVs from GTA driveways over the last year and then shipped them to various African countries for resale.

Police uncovered a “sophisticated operation” where a trio of employees at two GTA automobile yards would photograph the vehicle identification number cards and key codes for select vehicles and sell the images for $200 each. At that point, a corrupt employee at a Durham Region Service Ontario office would then be paid to search a government database and provide information on who purchased the vehicles for which the organization already possessed the VIN card information and key code.
With that information in hand, a team of thieves had “a shopping list” complete with addresses and key codes they could use to enter the vehicles without setting off their security systems. The thieves were then able to use laptops to hack into the vehicles’ operating system and program a blank key to start the ignition.

From there most of the vehicles were shipped to ports in Halifax or Montreal, where they were then loaded onto cargo ships and sent to Nigeria or Ghana. Police believe the ’Black Axe’ runs the operation.
Some other vehicles, meanwhile, were either broken down to parts or given new VIN numbers and resold.

Police said they arrested two of the alleged leaders of the ring along with the locksmith, a number of shipping yard employees and car dealership owners. Six more suspects remain at large.
Mapping a secret criminal hierarchy for the first time is a rare kind of detective work. So when two Toronto police officers and an RCMP analyst in British Columbia started documenting the existence of something called the “Black Axe, Canada Zone,” they could not have predicted it would take them to funerals, barbecue joints and deep into African history before they understood what they were seeing.

The Black Axe is feared in Nigeria, where it originated. It is a “death cult,” one expert said.

The group has been linked to decades of murders and rapes, and its members are said to swear a blood oath
An investigation by The Globe and Mail  found that “Axemen,” as they call themselves, are setting up chapters around the world, including in Canada.

Like any criminal organization, it focuses on profit, police say. But instead of drug or sex trafficking, it specializes in a crime many consider minor and non-violent: scamming.

Bemuda the National Head of Black Axe with fellow members.
Officers in Canada first heard the name “Black Axe” less than two years ago, said Tim Trotter, a detective constable with the Toronto Police Service. They are working quickly, trying to stop the group from becoming entrenched.

“I mean, 100 years ago, law enforcement dealt with the same thing, the Sicilian black hand, right? It meant nothing to anybody except the Sicilian community,” Det. Constable Trotter said. “And that’s what we have here.”