[EXCLUSIVE] Hundreds Deceived In Racket Involving Falsified Mileage On Japanese Used Car Imports

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Hundreds of consumers have been sold used Japanese cars with falsified mileage gauges, in a racket involving at least two car dealerships, MaltaToday has learned.

Cars bought at low prices in Japanese auction markets due to their high mileage would then be sold in Malta with the dashboard gauge showing low mileage.

An exercise carried out by MaltaToday on a sample of 18 cars reported by several industry sources, shows discrepancies ranging from 30,000 km to 130,000 km between the original mileage and that recorded in Malta.

Sources said at least two car dealerships used the services of a garage in San Gwann to tamper with the odometer and then falsify documents issued by the Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Center (JEVIC), to trick consumers into believing that the used car they are being sold is of low mileage.

MaltaToday arrived at the discrepancies by comparing the original mileage recorded by JEVIC in a publicly available online database with the mileage appearing in the system accessed by our sources.

MaltaToday understands that authorities are investigating the racketeering and that at least 300 Transport Malta records have been flagged as suspicious, some dating back to 2019.

The racketeering is facilitated by what appears to be the complacency of Transport Malta officials, who do not bother to cross-check the physical documents presented to them by car dealers when registering imported vehicles with JEVIC’s online registrations. which would indicate the true mileage.

How does the racket work?

A used car dealership in Malta appoints a representative who is responsible for bidding on cars at auctions held in Japan.

The Maltese importer sets a maximum bid price which is normally linked to the make and mileage of the car. If the offer is successful, JEVIC inspectors carry out an examination and issue a certificate of approval. In its pre-export report, JEVIC includes the car model, inspection date, inspection location, vehicle identification number (chassis number), type and engine reading. odometer, certification number and contact information for the inspector.

This information is recorded in an easily accessible online database using the car’s chassis number.

Industry sources told MaltaToday that racketeering begins the moment cars arrive in Malta.

When unloaded at the laboratory dock in the Grand Port, the police must complete the Customs and Police Vehicle Inspection Form 5 (VEH 005).

The manual form contains several fields, including one where the car’s dashboard mileage is listed. However, it seems that dealers often use the excuse that the car battery is dead due to the time it took the freighter to reach Malta, so the mileage on the dashboard cannot be read.

In these cases, the inspector leaves the mileage field blank so the dealership can fill it in later when the car is started using a booster. Sources have indicated that while there may be genuine cases of car batteries going flat, these were often reported to have been disconnected by the dealership.

The empty field allows dishonest dealers to later write down the falsified mileage.

reverse mileage

Once the car is in the dealership yard, it is taken to a car garage, where the mileage is altered and reduced. Sources have pointed to at least one such garage located in San Ġwann where the odometer is tampered with to reflect the dealer’s desired mileage.

At the same time, a fake JEVIC certificate showing the fake mileage is printed at a print shop in southern Malta.

The new false mileage is also listed in the empty field of the port inspection form.

Industry sources said the documentation, including the fake JEVIC certificate, is then presented to Transport Malta. In what appears to be incompetence at best and corruption at worst, the TM official receiving the documentation does not bother to verify the documentation with the JEVIC online database and the imported vehicle receives the official stamp with falsified mileage.

The car is then marketed in the showroom with low mileage and sold to unwitting customers.

“Something was wrong”

Several industry sources who spoke to MaltaToday said the culprits would import a batch of vehicles but traffic only half of them.

“They are smart. Out of 50 imported cars, 30 would be legit,” the sources said.

But the practice raised eyebrows after other car dealers noticed a drop in sales over the large amount of cars sold by the two suspect dealers.

“They were selling between 10 and 15 cars a week, while we were selling just two,” said car dealers who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity. “We knew something was wrong.”

They also noticed that the dealers behind the racket were selling hard-to-find cars at auctions.

“Let’s look at the Mazda Demio for example. Gray and white models are easy to find, but blues or browns are not so common and everyone wants them. But these two dealers didn’t seem to have any of these problems sourcing such popular colors. They were obviously buying them at a cheaper price, because of the high mileage and so there were fewer competing bidders,” said one of the dealers.

Documents seen by MaltaToday show the repeated falsification of mileage, making the cars appear newer than they are.

A Mazda Demio was registered in Malta with a mileage of 38,887 km, but the original JEVIC certificate showed a mileage of 109,785 km. A Toyota IQ was registered with a mileage of 36,522 km, but its original JEVIC certificate showed a mileage of 136,522 km, which is 1,000 km more.

A Suzuki Swift was registered at 36,522 km, while the original documentation stated a mileage of 136,522 km.

Warp the playing field

The racketeering appears to have stopped a little over a month ago when authorities began investigating. But the practice, which created an unfair playing field, has since pushed some dealerships out of business.

“At least I have a bigger showroom and I come from a generation of car dealerships, but not all of us have been so lucky,” said one of the sources who spoke to this journal. “I know someone who was driven to depression. He was so broke he couldn’t afford a car. Imagine that, a car dealership that doesn’t own a car.

He described the situation honest resellers were facing. “It was crazy to see people trying on as soon as they walked into their showroom. Customers would come up to us and say, “Look, this dealership sells cars with lower mileage that are cheaper than yours. We would be confused.

And to top it off, the scammers could save face with consumers if the tampered vehicles developed a malfunction, as the cost of repair would become insignificant compared to the revenue they would have made.

“Cars, especially with high mileage, develop problems, but if the dealership fixed the faulty vehicle for free, they would still make a profit, while making the customer happy,” one of the sources said.

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