Abandoned car at Wellington Airport linked to Colombian jewellery thefts
A car linked to major jewellery thefts in 2011 is believed to have been sitting abandoned at Wellington Airport for more than two years, collecting up to $5000 in parking fees.
The 2005 Honda Accord Euro was wanted five years ago in relation to two Auckland thefts in which an international crime syndicate netted more than $770,000 worth of jewellery using stolen vehicles.
The airport would not confirm how long the car had been parked in its long-term car park, but vehicle records reveal its registration was cancelled on June 16, 2013. It had changed ownership just five days earlier.
It is possible the car could have racked up close to $5000 in parking fees, based on the airport's current long-term rates of $120 for nine days, then $5 for each day after that.
Five Colombian nationals, who reportedly spent months planning the two heists, were the subject of a two-week, nationwide manhunt. All were jailed in 2012, so the mystery remains as to who drove the car to the airport, and where they went.
Police issued an appeal for sightings of the vehicle in 2011 when they were searching for the suspects.
The victims were Australian and Asian dealers who were in New Zealand to buy and sell jewellery.
One, from Sydney, had jewellery worth $110,000 stolen from him in suburban Parnell, while two other international dealers were robbed of more than $600,000 in gems outside Rydges Hotel in central Auckland two weeks later.
Most of the jewels were later recovered.
Now, almost five years on from the crimes, the airport and police are pointing fingers at each other as to who should be responsible for removing the abandoned vehicle.
"We refer suspected abandoned cars to the police, who will then try to make contact with the owners." Wellington Airport spokeswoman Briarley Kirk said.
Airport staff did not know how much was owing in fees, as they did not know exactly when it entered the car park.
Kirk said an internal investigation was held, but would not comment further, and repeated that the matter had been referred to police.
However, police said they had no business with the vehicle, since they had looked at it several years ago.
"It looks like we dealt with the car with whatever we were interested in it for in April 2013," Senior Sergeant Steve Braybrook said.
Police looked into the vehicle again in July 2015, when airport staff alerted them to it in the long-term car park.
"The owner was an insurance company, because the vehicle must have been stolen," he said.
"We liaised with the insurance company and put them in touch with the airport manager, because it's not a police matter.
"Effectively, it's like an abandoned piece of property."
That meant the matter of its removal came down to the airport and the insurance company.
Police said the car appeared to have been at the airport for more than a year, and confirmed its registration and warrant had lapsed.
Its last odometer reading was in mid-March 2011, according to vehicle website CarJam, just weeks before the first jewellery theft.
Crombie and Lockwood was the insurance broker for the vehicle, but said it could not give out details on the insurer.
Wilson Parking said its policy was that, if a vehicle was believed to have been abandoned, it was monitored for a week then moved to a towing contractor's yard for a month.
If still not claimed, the towing contractor processed it as an abandoned vehicle, which meant efforts are made to contact the previous owner.
If that process did not work, the vehicle was listed in newspaper classifieds and eventually sold to cover parking and other related costs.