Police caught the suspect getting into a stolen car. / sur

Head of Costa high-end car theft gang re-arrested in Malaga

The suspect, who served time for stealing 75 luxury vehicles and selling them to drug traffickers, had only recently been released from prison

IRENE QUIRANTE Malaga

He had just spent several months in jail for his involvement in the theft of 75 top-of-the-range cars, and during that time the number of reported vehicle thefts in Malaga province dropped by 50 per cent. Now, the man who police believe is the ringleader of a large gang that provides luxury transport for drug traffickers, has been arrested once again for the same offence.

The 48-year-old Bulgarian was originally one of four people detained in June as part of Operation Beta, which resulted in the break-up of one of the most active criminal networks specialising in disabling vehicle security systems.

He was released from prison in October, and just a few weeks later the number of reported car thefts shot up again, leading investigators to suspect that the gang had resumed their illegal activities.

This was in early December. In just a few days the police received six reports of high-end vehicles being stolen and now the suspected ringleader has been detained again, this time as he was about to get into a Range Rover in Cerrado de Calderón, in Malaga city, which had been stolen a week earlier from a residential development in Estepona.

Alarms and geolocation devices disabled

Members of the gang would drive around developments on the Costa del Sol looking for suitable vehicles to steal. Once they had identified them, they would return at night and target those parked in the street or in garages. They used a collection of remote controls and sensors which could clone frequencies to open the doors.

They were also expert at disconnecting or overriding vehicle security systems and geolocation devices.

The stolen cars were generally sold to drug trafficking gangs in the Campo de Gibraltar for an average of 6,000 euros each. They were mainly used to transport drugs from one area to another.