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Sunday 4 December 2016

Exclusive: Criminals 'copycatting' registration plates of Irish vehicles 'to transport illegal persons and alcohol'

Published 11/11/2016 | 15:24

Renault Premium trucks which were 'cloned'
Renault Premium trucks which were 'cloned'

A major Irish trucking company has claimed the licence plates of some of its vehicles are being ‘cloned’ by criminals in Europe.

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Setanta Vehicle Importers Limited, based in Dublin, hire out some of their trucks on a contract basis and have had a number of incidents involving ‘copycats’ over the past two months.

The company is the main importer of Renault trucks in Ireland.

In one case, a customer of Setanta received a letter notifying them that their truck had been impounded by Austrian authorities, and they were being prosecuted for the transportation of illegal persons.

The person’s actual truck was in Ireland at the time, and the registration details had been copied.

Sharon Concarr, the company’s solicitor, says she has been liaising with British police to get to the root of the issue.

“I have had to speak to police in Kent.  I have also been dealing with the EPC which collect toll charges for the Dartford Crossing, and I had another one recently involving a parking fine for one of the companies,” Ms Concarr told Independent.ie.

The Dartford Crossing is a major road crossing the River Thames in the UK.

In some cases, the cloned trucks are racking up toll charges of €1,000, which are being issued to the owners of the legitimate vehicles.

Ms Concarr explains how the company are fighting the toll charges and parking fines.

“In Ireland, the number plates have the blue IRL on the left hand side. We have legislation which says this has to be displayed.

“In the UK, however, they have a white number plate on the front and a yellow on the back of the vehicle. So when we were issued the photo of ‘our’ truck, it had the UK version.

“You could go online to the road haulers licencing website and search for a road haulier and all his licence plates are there or online, so it’s easy enough to copy them.

“I don’t know what they’re transporting. There is no smoke without fire. If they are cloning number plates, is that the only illegal activity they’re doing? Probably not,” she added.

Jerry Drummond, Operations Manager with Glantrans International Carriers Limited, recently received a letter notifying him that one of the company’s trucks had been seized in Dover, after it was found to be transporting 26 pallets of beer without a licence to do so.

However, none of their trucks were in Dover on the day in question.

“It is having a huge affect on our business. Some of the fines and toll fees are reaching €1,000 a month. We are not liable to pay these and it is taking a lot of administrative work to fight them,” Mr Drummond told Independent.ie.

In another incident, Mr Drummond was contacted by the Department of Public Prosecution in Bruges, who informed him that one of their trucks had been seized.

The operations manager says the truck was in Dublin at the time.

“Sometimes, the truck will be the same make and model, with the same number plate, but it’s a different colour. These people are very clever.

“It’s happening a lot. Haulage companies are paying an absolute fortune at the moment in insurance and we feel like there's nothing being done to protect the haulage companies.

“It puts incredible strain on the business, having to fight these issues. I spent nearly my whole day yesterday trying to sort out who owns this truck.”

Independent.ie has contacted the Revenue Fraud Detection Unit in the UK for a response.

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