Kyrgyz police accused of nicking imported cars from citizens at customs

Kyrgyz police accused of nicking imported cars from citizens at customs
"It ain't hot, I swear. Let me show you the papers." / UNODC
By bne IntelIiNews November 15, 2023

Police in Kyrgyzstan are reportedly driving cars ordered from Europe by citizens who were left stunned when the vehicles were grabbed by the state immediately after customs clearance.

“It [the car] was repainted [in the colours of a police car]. And a number was put up – 518. This is my car. How do I know that that car is mine? Well, I still have the remote control for it. Look, I press the button, and I unlock the car. Can you imagine? It turns out they just robbed me," one woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Current Time, the media outlet that investigated the simmering scandal.

Current Time reported officials as saying that some of the cars in question were identified by Interpol as stolen and so were listed as illegal imports. But that begs the question: why were the vehicles not then returned to the countries of origin that put them on the “wanted” list?

Lawyer Aliya Turumbekova, who is acting on behalf of some of the vehicle purchasers, was cited as saying that if the cars were seen as stolen vehicles on the “wanted” list, the Ministry of Internal Affairs should have returned them to the state that put them on the list.

“But they didn’t do this,” she added, saying that there was a “gross violation” that enabled officials to have a court declare the cars “ownerless” and the police to convert them into patrol cars. 

Current Time asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a comment. But it failed to provide one by the specified deadline.

The buyer of another imported car recently learned that the vehicle, a brand new Toyota RAV4, ordered from Europe earlier this year, now serves as a Ministry of Internal Affairs patrol car, the media outlet added. The car was said to have been taken away from her immediately after customs clearance.

“My brother and I saved for this car for a long time. When it was delivered, I immediately ran to do customs clearance. I paid the required duty, filled out all the documents, and when I went to lower the car from the car-carrier, it was no longer there.

“We were told that the police took it away. I went everywhere, both to the Main Department of Internal Affairs and the State Criminal Investigation Department. I went everywhere, looking for my car. Then I found out that, it turns out, by a court decision, my car was declared ownerless and transferred to the balance of the state," the woman was quoted as saying.

Another frustrated car buyer was reported as saying: “After customs clearance, I just left the gate, and literally 100-200 metres later a car overtook me and blocked the road. Men got out and showed documents and said that they were employees of the Main Directorate for Criminal Investigation.

“They took the documents for the car, and I said, I won’t [accept this]. As a result, they put my car in the impound lot and said that the court would decide its fate. Then a few days later I went to the parking lot, but my car was no longer there.”

Current Time discovered the controversial seizing of 12 Toyota RAV4s and Lexus RX 450 SUVs in all. All of the vehicles were sent to Kyrgyzstan from Lithuania by a company called Kema. Pervomaisky District Court in Bishkek recognised all of the seized cars as ownerless and made them state property.