The "Rebirthing" Problem Down UnderS

Stolen or written-off cars in Australia are being given new life by criminals falsifying documentation, changing VINs and exporting them to other countries for illegal sale. Police digging into the problem claim they've found millions in contraband cars.

Rebirthing is a problem that's been brewing in Australia for years. It works in two ways — a car destined for rebirthing either starts out as a stolen vehicle or as an insurance write-off which would have headed for the wrecking yard.

Write-offs usually get repaired using parts from stolen cars and then get new VIN's and are sold to unsuspecting buyers. Stolen vehicles are either chopped up for parts or exported for international sale. In 2009 20,537 repaired vehicles were presented for registration and it's estimated that one in six were illegally rebirthed. On former National Roads and Motorists' Association employee said "In some districts in the south-west of Sydney, our inspectors would do five inspections a day and of those five, three would be re-birthed." According to Transport Minister David Campbell "There is a black market for purchasing written-off vehicles at auctions, then using stolen parts to rebirth and register the car to be sold for a tidy profit."

The recent crackdown on rebirthing ramped up over the course of the summer after police got wind of an organized crime syndicate processing vehicles for sale in the middle east. They began executing search warrants in May, arresting 28-year-old and investigating suspicious shipping containers. In June the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service intercepted a cargo container packed with stolen SUVs and parts headed to Beirut, Lebanon.

Legislation against the practice was introduced to the state of New South Wales in April by Campbell, and are supposed to go into effect this month, but legislating the problem away will likely prove a challenge. [Adelaide Now, Drive, Drive]