Check to see if your stolen Mississauga car is on sale overseas


Published January 11, 2023 at 11:13 am

If you’ve had a vehicle stolen in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton or anywhere else in Ontario, there’s a chance your stolen ride might be on sale at a used car lot overseas.

In December, users on social media spotted Instagram posts from a used car lot in the African country of Ghana that appeared to be selling vehicles with Ontario licence plates. The CarsGhana Instagram account has since been changed to private, but police were alerted to the posts before they were restricted.

Det. Sgt. Mark Haywood with Peel Regional Police said the vehicles are likely stolen and being resold illegally, as a “tidal wave” of stolen cars from Ontario that are being shipped overseas and openly sold at used car lots. But police are facing challenges when trying to bring the stolen rides back to Canada, despite photo evidence of the vehicles and the licence plates.

“We’ve been aware of that for probably the last two years,” Haywood told Insauga. “It’s not hard to tell – some of them have licence plate brackets with ‘Brampton Chrysler’ on them, or something similar to that.”

From luxury SUVs to commuter sedans, the CarsGhana account showed vehicles for sale with plates from Ontario and Quebec, as well as U.S. states like Texas and California. Haywood said that police have been investigating similar lots in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Insauga reached out to CarsGhana multiple times for comment. No response was received.

The number of stolen vehicles and carjackings in Mississauga and Brampton has been on the rise in recent years, with a combined 95 cars stolen in both cities during the first seven days of 2023. Haywood said “convenience” features like keyless entry have made vehicles much easier to steal, as criminals can use devices to copy a key fob or gain access to a vehicle.

And while stealing a vehicle may be relatively simple with the right equipment, selling a stolen vehicle locally is much more difficult and less lucrative than finding a buyer overseas.

“Shipping them overseas is way more profitable and way easier for the criminal element,” Haywood said. “They’re making as much for a stolen vehicle for selling cocaine. So obviously, the risk versus reward is lower risk, much higher reward.”

And with thousands of shipping containers leaving Canadian ports every day, Haywood said trying to stem the wave of stolen cars headed to other countries is like “throwing a dart at a board to see what you hit.”

Riding the tidal wave

The cost of shipping stolen vehicles back to their rightful owners in Canada is a significant roadblock for investigators, as securing a shipping container alone can cost $30,000.

“The unfortunate part is the astronomical costs involved for shipping to have these come back,” Haywood said. “Most insurance companies really don’t have an interest in having them brought back at their cost.”

Another obstacle is that many of the countries where the stolen vehicles end up don’t have mechanisms for stopping the import of stolen cars.

“A lot of these countries that are taking these cars in, there’s no system in place where they would concern themselves with legitimate vehicles or whether they’re registered or not,” Haywood said.

Haywood said Peel Regional Police are working with the RCMP and civilian agencies to repatriate stolen vehicles when they’re found in overseas lots. But limited resources, logistical challenges, and the “astronomical” costs of shipping have investigators focusing on preventing auto thefts here at home as the first line of defence against international auto crime.

Police agencies have been cracking down on auto theft across the GTA in the past year, teaming up in multi-jurisdictional operations that have netted millions of dollars in stolen vehicles.

In November, more than 100 charges were laid and some $6.4 million in stolen and “re-vinned” vehicles were recovered after police busted an alleged carjacking ring with ties to Mississauga and Brampton.

And back in July, the Caledon OPP recovered a container full of stolen high-end vehicles from a shipping yard in Bolton. One month later, police again seized more than $150,000 in stolen luxury cars that were scheduled to be shipped overseas from the same shipping yard.

Even with some significant multi-departmental wins under their belt, Haywood said police can only

“We’re trying to stay ahead of it, it’s just a large tidal wave that’s coming and we’re trying to surf it as best we can,” he said.


Haywood said the old adage of ‘gone in 60 seconds’ is a thing of the past now that car thieves have access to key copying technology.

“Most people take for granted leaving their vehicle out in the open…I’ve seen a dodge ram stolen in 18 seconds using a relay theft,” he told Insauga.

With more vehicles stolen in Mississauga and Brampton every day, Haywood said anything you can do to make your vehicle an unappealing target for would-be thieves will help avoid becoming a victim.

  • Park your car in a garage if possible
  • Never leave your vehicle running and unattended – even in your driveway
  • If you have multiple vehicles, park your less expensive car to block in more expensive ones
  • If you must warm up your car, use a remote starter or lock the vehicle and use a spare key
  • Park the vehicle as close to you as possible;
  • Install a motion-activated light in your driveway and keep your property well-lit
  • Never leave valuable items in a vehicle

Haywood said that “if a criminal element wants to steal your vehicle, they’re going to steal it.”

“But the idea is to make it less attractive to them, to maybe move on to the next person or decide against it altogether,” Haywood said. “Making it an unattractive target is your best bet.”

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