Refugee jailed for receiving stolen cars

A refugee has been jailed for running a stolen car "chop shop" in Christchurch.

The police say he bought seven vehicles in eight days from a 15-year-old car thief who was using a stolen passport as identification.

Mohammad Ali Ghulami, 46, had pleaded guilty to 14 charges of receiving stolen cars at his Golden Age Auto Dismantler Ltd business in Bernard St, Addington.

Police said his business sold parts and sections of vehicles on the international and New Zealand markets.

His Christchurch District Court sentencing was told that all but one or two of the vehicles were covered by insurance but the loss was $51,000.

Having closed the business and sold its assets, he was able to hand his lawyer Pat Butler a bank cheque for $7000 towards the reparations.

But Judge Michael Crosbie referred to the offending as audacious and premeditated and jailed Ghulami for 18 months, with a further six months of special release conditions when he must attend treatment and counselling as directed.

Ghulami qualified as a doctor in Afghanistan and practised there for a year before moving to Pakistan where he worked as a joiner before moving to Malaysia as a refugee. He came to New Zealand 10 years ago and worked as a joiner and taxi driver.

Butler said Ghulami was not able to work as a doctor because of difficulties recognising his foreign qualifications.

Someone Ghulami knew arrived from Dubai and encouraged him to set up the auto dismantling business to supply parts he needed. This person supplied the money to set up the business with two other people, but they then left, leaving Ghulami alone in a business where he had no experience.

Between January 20 and 27, 2011, the 15-year-old car thief sold Ghulami seven vehicles for a fraction of their value. Other car thieves brought in vehicles later in the year.

Some of the vehicles were stolen from outside homes, but mainly they disappeared from car parks at shopping malls, hotels, the Teachers' College carpark, or parking areas in the city.

Judge Crosbie referred to the victim impact statements and the loss and inconvenience to the people and families that had owned the cars.

He said Ghulami was described as ashamed and remorseful. The offending had affected his marriage and his family life had been shattered.

He said: "Those who receive property on a scale like this are the market for those who steal. The message must be given to the community that the courts will impose significant penalties on those who offend on a significant scale."

The Press