RINGER: The Sultan got caught up in a Met Police probe into exported stolen vehicles (Wikipedia)
THE SULTAN of Brunei inadvertently bought a fleet of stolen "rung" super cars, including his own personal Bentley, from a gang of East End criminals, it has been revealed. The sultan became embroiled in an international multi-million pound probe into the export of stolen performance cars from the UK to the Far East after members of his staff unwittingly purchased the vehicles. Details of the sultan's involvement in the case were revealed by a former intelligence officer who worked on the case. It was after the sultan was propelled into the headlines over his hard line stance on homosexuals who could now be stoned to death as a punishment. The former Met Police detective sergeant, who posts online under the pseudonym Frank Matthews, tweeted: "A crime syndicate connected to corrupt cops was supplying the sultan with stolen Mercedes cars and his personal Bentley was a stolen 'ringer.' "I worked covertly on the case." Mr Matthews said a major East End gang was making millions of pounds in the early 1990s due to there being no franchises for Mercedes and other performance cars in the Far East at the time. The vehicles were first sent to Malaysia and also ended up in the ownership of royalty there, he said. He said: "I was getting fed this information from sources in the criminal underworld about how they got the vehicles out there and that the gang were laughing their heads off at the fact the Sultan of Brunei was being driven around in a ringed Bentley. The King of Malaysia at the time had also received a ringer."
FLEET: The sultan owned many Bentleys - only one was thought to be a ringer (Bentelyspotting.com)
It is understood that members of royalty in Malaysia and Brunei were completely oblivious to the fact that that they were importing stolen vehicles, however, a team from the Met Police car squad which visited established they had. Mr Matthews added: "This was a major criminal enterprise. The East End gang had criminal contacts in Malaysia who helped them get the stolen vehicles in and they were often paid for them in drugs that were then smuggled back into the UK, with corrupt shipping people at both ends." The gangs, who had corrupt people working in the DVLA and within shipping companies, were stealing nearly new vehicles from the wealthy before "ringing" them to appear like different cars. Ringing involves removing original chassis and engine numbers and replacing them with new ones before registering the vehicle as new with false plates and a log book. The crooks then used insiders in the shipping industry to export them in a container that was said to have an entirely different load.
WOWIE: One of the crooks is the dad of a cast member of reality show TOWIE (ITV)
Seven people, including the dad of a cast member of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, were arrested in connection with the stolen car export scam, but they were never charged. Many of the cars first landed in Malaysia where the sultan's team is believed to have acquired a fleet of "ringed" Mercedes and the Bentley. Criminals in the Far East acted as middle men and the sultan's people are unlikely to have dealt directly with the London gang or known they were buying stolen vehicles. A major operation was put together by the Met Police car squad to work with officials in Malaysia and other Far Eastern countries to try to crack the gang. The team made several visits to Malaysia to identify stolen rung cars tat had been exported there.
Mr Matthews said: "There was one excursion by the car squad to see the Sultan of Brunei's people. "It needed special Foreign Office office permission, because it involved a foreign royal family. "Insurance firms accompanies them and it was to examine a number of Mercedes that were being used by the sultan's entourage and his own personal Bentley. "All of them were found to be ringers, but no one in Brunei was charged or implicated." It is not known if the cars had to be removed from the Sultan or if he lost any money as a result. Mr Matthews said the quality of the ringing was so good that it took specialist car investigators with the insurance firms help to identify they were stolen vehicles. He added: "There was a hooky bloke in the shipping company and the cars were put it in as container load of peanuts. "They had friendly people in the docks and showed a dodgy manifest for what was in the container, so they sailed through for years and years." Mr Matthews was an intelligence officer who handled police informants from other crime gangs who fed him information about rivals. He was tipped off about the car ringing scam before passing it on to investigators who travelled to Malaysia.
RECORDED: The car scam investigation was detailed in Car Wars by Jonathan Mantle (Jonathan Mantle)
The operation is referenced in the 1995 book Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery & Skullduggery in the Global Market Place by Jonathan Mantle. However, the book did not mention the involvement of the sultan in the case. The book said the Met estimated that 750 of the 4,000 right-hand-drive Mercedes vehicles shipped from the UK to Malaysia each year were stolen from dealers and homes in London and the Home Counties. Crooks had to pay just £2,000 to ship the cars worth £22,000 in the UK that sold for up to £70,000 in the Far East. The book said: "Seven members of an East End gang were arrested in connection with these offences. "The gang was estimated to have made £15 million through the theft and illegal export of Mercedes-Benz to Malaysia." It is understood the case eventually collapsed due to corruption concerns that some officers within the Met were aiding the criminals. A Met Police spokesman said its electronic records did not go back far enough to be able to comment on the case. We contacted the sultan through the UK embassy of Brunei, but received no response.