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SA: a dumping ground for illegal imported vehicles

Don’t be caught off guard. It is illegal to buy an import used vehicle. All illegally imported vehicles are seized by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and are destroyed (compacted) by government.

In an article published on 26 November 2018 on by the Citizen online, it was reported that SARS destroyed several imported illegal vehicles valued close to R4 million as part of a clampdown on noncompliance in various customs sectors.

After a house, a car is one of the most important purchases made by most consumers. For many people a vehicle is the most expensive mobile assets that they will purchase and is therefore probably one of the biggest decisions they’ll make during their lives. As we all know this process is a very daunting experience. It is thus important to take the time to do the necessary checks before completing these transactions which will save the buyer and in many cases the seller as well much inconvenience and a lot of money!

Consumers in the market for a used car should be on high alert for unscrupulous sellers and buyers who are ready to pounce on their hard-earned cash and take them for a ride. It is a reality that there are thousands of cars on South African roads which were either hijacked or stolen along with illegally imported vehicles that are used to defraud innocent buyers.

The importation of used vehicles into South Africa is prohibited under the International Trade Administration Act (Act 71 of 2002). The importation of used vehicles is only allowed in exceptional cases, for example, to immigrants with permanent residence and residents returning to South Africa.

The majority of South Africa’s neighbours rely on passage through South Africa for their imports, which include second hand vehicles. Many of these ‘in-transit’ used vehicles do not reach their final destination or find their way back, illegally, into South Africa as relatively cheap used vehicles and are sold to the local unsuspecting public. Many South Africans are losing their vehicles along with the money invested in buying these vehicles as these illegal imports will be confiscated by law enforcement.

During the early 2000s, South Africa implemented a number of measures to curb this problem. It is however apparent that the illegal importation of used vehicles is becoming a problem once again.

During the early 2000s, it was mainly motor vehicles that were deregistered in Japan, sold on auctions and shipped to Southern Africa that caused a problem. These vehicles are normally easy to visually identify by, for example, models that are clearly not sold in South Africa, mirrors on the front fender of the vehicle, mirrors in the back window, labels in the side windows in foreign languages and wipers on the front headlights. Currently, more vehicles from other parts of the world are offered in South Africa. These motor vehicles, in many cases, look like the vehicles that are sold in South Africa.

It is also becoming more apparent that Southern Africa is being used as the dumping area for stolen motor vehicles from all over the world, largely due to European countries having implemented measures to curb this problem in their own countries.

Many illegal imported and stolen vehicles are not necessarily old and unsafe vehicles. In many instances, these are expensive and luxurious vehicles which are offered at a good price to the South African public.

The illegal importation of vehicles can only be described as a massive problem, and besides personal trauma to the local RSA buyer when their vehicles are confiscated, these vehicles are illegally by-passing RSA customs thus placing the entire new and used motor industry under pressure. Although some of the vehicles are registered on the NaTIS (the South African National vehicle register), many vehicles are advertised and sold as vehicles registered in our neighbouring countries. Promises are also made by the unscrupulous sellers, that for an extra fee, the vehicle will be registered in South Africa.

All illegally imported vehicles are seized by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) or by the South African Police Service (SAPS). These seized illegally imported vehicles are in most cases destroyed (compacted) by government. Stolen vehicles are confiscated by the SAPS and returned to their rightful owners.

These vehicles are not allowed to stay in South Africa, even if the buyer was unaware that it is an illegal imported vehicle, or are willing to pay all duties or if the rightful owner is prepared to sell the vehicle to the owner in South Africa. The South African owner will not be able to obtain an import permit from ITAC since it is still a contravention of the International Trade Administration Act (Act 71 of 2002).

Don’t be caught off guard. Potential buyers of used motor vehicles must be vigilant when buying a vehicle. Most of the measures to prevent buying an illegal imported vehicle are the same as the measures to prevent buying a stolen cloned vehicle.

The following is recommended

  • Never buy a vehicle advertised or displayed with foreign number plates.
  • Never buy a vehicle that is registered in a foreign country – even our neighbouring countries. The probability of you being allowed to import the vehicle, is very low.
  • Never buy a vehicle without a NaTIS registration certificate. If the vehicle is financed, the registration certificate will be at the bank and it will only be released if the vehicle is paid in full.
  • Check that the information on the registration certificate and/or license disc match with the information on the vehicle. Check that all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and have not been tampered with.
  • Check for spelling mistakes on the registration certificate and that it is not a photo copy.
  • It is strongly recommended that used vehicles be bought from reputable dealers. Although this is not a guarantee, chances are better that the vehicle you’re buying from a reputable dealer is legal. It is important for reputable dealers to protect themselves, not only from losses but also to protect their reputation. These dealers normally check that the vehicles being sold are legal and have the knowledge to identify imported vehicles. It is also easier to hold them liable if it is found that the vehicle was illegally imported or stolen.
  • It is strongly recommended that buyers of used motor vehicles should not buy a vehicle if a microdot confirmation certificate was not issued for the vehicle by a reputable accredited microdot fitment centre. All motor vehicles, locally manufactured or imported, registered for the first time in South Africa after 1 September 2012 must be microdotted. If a vehicle has not been fitted, it should be verified and fitted with microdots. The Second-Hand Goods Act, 2009 (Act No. 6 of 2009) makes it a requirement that second-hand motor vehicle dealers must record motor vehicle details, which includes the recording of the microdot particulars on the microdot. This makes the microdot information readily available to be verified. For information on accredited microdot fitment centres near you, please contact Microdot Association of Southern Africa, DataDot Technology, Veridot and Recoveri Tag what’s Yours.

The golden rule is, if the deal looks too good to be true, walk away, because it probably is. Use your head, not your heart.

Source: Business Against Crime