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Automan empire: How a man stole 500 cars in 5 years

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Automan empire: How a man stole 500 cars in 5 years

Safruddin, alias Kaalia, alias Shanu had set himself a target of stealing 100 luxury cars every year. 

His story is like the Fast & Furious or Dhooom film franchise coming to life. Twenty-nine-year-old Delhi resident Safruddin wore branded clothes, carried expensive cellphones, had a beautiful girlfriend, travelled by chic cars and flew business class. But the secret to his lavish lifestyle was a sordid one. Safruddin, alias Kaalia, alias Shanu had set himself a target of stealing 100 luxury cars every year.

The now-arrested serial offender needed money to pamper his Hyderabad-based girl-friend, believed to be a model.

Since 2012, Safruddin had managed to swipe over 500 swank vehicles. After the crimes, he would fly to Hyderabad with a heap of expensive gifts for his lover. The Class 10 drop-out was purportedly taunted at school because of his dark complexion and somewhat diminutive stature - he now stands at 5'8".

The Nand Nagri resident learnt on YouTube the tricks of stealing high-end cars by hacking the engine control module (ECM) using code scanners and a laptop.

Safruddin, who had a bounty of Rs 1 lakh on his arrest, also trained his accomplices and over the past year, the frequency of his operations had gone up.

"On August 3, a team of crime branch received information that he would be coming to Gagan Cinema at Nand Nagri in a stolen Maruti Suzuki Swift car.

Accordingly, a trap was laid and he was forced to stop his vehicle near Pragati Maidan. After a short scuffle he was overpowered," Rajesh Deo, deputy commissioner of police (crime branch), told Mail Today.

Safruddin would get preorders from used-car dealers from the Northeast mentioning the customers' demands about colours, makes and models and accordingly his gang would carry out targeted thefts.

He was also associated with the Shariq, alias, Sata gang that steals luxury cars in the city. Safruddin was active since 2012 and got arrested in 2017. After spending two months in jail, he came out and became even more insatiable.

He watched YouTube tutorials and purchased code scanners of almost all top car companies such as Hyundai, Maruti, Toyota, etc. Police sources told Mail Today that Safruddin purchased the code scanners from online shopping portals and each machine cost him between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh.

"His associates have been identified as Salim, Noor Mohammad and Ravi alias Kuldeep. They stole a car, took it to the nearest Metro station parking lot and changed the number plate. They then covered the car with plastic sheets to avoid detection. When the clients were informed, they would send someone over to accept delivery. Once the car reached its destination in the Northeast, a person would come over and pay Safruddin in cash," an officer close to the investigation said. For each car, Safruddin would get about Rs 1 to Rs 1.5 lakh," he added.

Last month, police gunned down a member of the gang in Vivek Vihar and nabbed another while investigating a case of a Toyota Fortuner theft. Noor Mohammad was killed after the group opened fire on cops. Ravi was arrested while Safruddin and Salim managed to flee.

Disclosing the gang's modus operandi, the officer added that they first broke the glass of a window of the target vehicle and then opened the door from inside. Then they disabled the steering lock with the help of a drill or magnet. They also used a scanning machine to switch on the ignition and to read the data and then hacked the ECM and key combination with the help of a decoder.

"Later, with the help of a remote key, they started the car. In case the vehicle had GPS installed, they dismantled it to avoid tracking," Deo said.

Mail Today reported on May 30 about how the easy availability of high-tech cartheft devices had become a nightmare for Delhi Police.

"Apart from these advanced sophisticated tools, the online tutorials related to engine immobiliser hacking for lost keys or swapped ECU are allowing auto-lifters to upgrade themselves technologically," another officer said.