Many years ago, I had the pleasure of participating in an anti-terrorism conference as one of a few select invitees. The conference was very interesting, I learned much, met some very interesting people, and have used the information I gleaned from them still to this day.
One of the interesting stories that was told by a presenter there was about terrorist financing by way of auto thefts. According to this person, there was an organized car theft ring funded by a wealthy Saudi Arabian prince (whose name I cannot remember but was mentioned) who was funding terrorism by working with a gang of people in the US doing car theft. Most of the auto thefts took place in the Atlanta area, and it involved this gang paying teenagers to steal cars by providing them with the tools and promise of a cash payout. The teenagers, if caught, would get a comparatively light prison sentence as opposed to the members of the gang. When they brought the cars, the teenagers would get their pay and then the cars would be loaded onto an auto hauler and taken to Savannah, Georgia, where they were then shipped overseas and either sold to people or used in car bombings for terrorist activity. This person said that multiple car bombings in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East were connected by forensics back to these auto thefts.
I cannot verify anything more to this story than this presentation which was given. Was it actually true or not? I cannot say, other than it was presented as true and seems plausible.
It is therefore with interests that according to reports from Customs and Border Patrol, a record number of auto thefts have been stopped by CBP, after finding cars hidden in shipments destined mostly for points in West Africa.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Baltimore Service Port has reported a new record in the number of stolen vehicles being exported from the US. CBP said 246 stolen vehicles, worth over $10.3 million, have been recovered at seaports in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia in 2019.
Baltimore ranks second nationally behind New York, in which 257 stolen vehicles were recovered in 2019.
Nationwide, more than 1,000 vehicles have been recovered during import and export inspections, with a majority of the vehicles recovered on East Coast ports.
CBP said it has been a record year for recoveries in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. Recoveries this year are up 112% over last year’s figures. At least 66% of the recoveries occurred at the Port of Baltimore.
The agency blamed transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that operate up and down Interstate-95 for the jump in stolen vehicles.
“Export examinations are a critical component to Customs and Border Protection’s border security mission.
Transnational criminal organizations use stolen vehicles as currency and they conceal illicit revenue from their illegal activities in outbound cargo,” said Casey Durst, Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office. “CBP officers remain committed to striking back at criminal groups where it hurts most, by intercepting their illegal exports and illicit financial gains.”
CBP said at least 95% of the stolen vehicles recovered at East Coast ports were destined to West African nations, including Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. (source)
The particular countries to which these cars are being shipped is very interesting, as they all share borders with each other in that one could get in a car in the Gambia and with the exception of Guinea, could veritably make a complete drive through these nations. This suggests that whatever “gang” is operating has some regional roots, and is limited to certain geographic points.
Something else that makes these countries interesting is that almost all of them, except for Sierra Leone, share a border with either Mali or Burkina Faso. Ted and I have been reporting on the terrorist violence taking place in both of these nations, noting that there is a strong US presence in the area, the area has been identified by geographic reports as having potentially very large, undeveloped oil and mineral deposits, that the US is having a geopolitical struggle against China in the region, and that given that terrorism is used as a tool of western political policy, that the Islamic terror attacks are likely connected to US geopolitical ventures in the region.
I have no proof that there is actual “terrorist” activity taking place in so far as it relates to the car theft trade. However, I can say that smuggling cars is a very expensive endeavor. According to one website, it takes between $1200 to $2500 USD to ship a car to Africa, and considering that one has to hide the car in some form of packaging, there are real expenses involved.
Who is the individual or group of people stealing these cars? Are they earning a profit from them? Are they working for somebody with more money? If so, why is this person stealing, as it is just for profit, or is there something else going on?
Could we begin to see a series of car bombings in West Africa, and possibly in Burkina Faso and Mali?
We do not know. It will be interesting to watch the news and see what developments, if there are any, come from this and what the possible political implications may be.