In Berlin, police are targeting several dozen car rental companies that have attracted attention with dubious practices and links to crime, said police chief Barbara Slowik on Monday in the Interior Committee of the House of Representatives. According to the statement, police have currently "detected 40 individuals and companies that explicitly show references to clan criminality." Clan criminals "resort to these car rental companies."
Behind the companies, either criminal structures stand as operators - or criminals regularly use the vehicles of these companies, he said. "The supply of vehicles through dubious car rental companies is an essential component of criminal groups," Slowik said. This is organized in a "multi-layered and confusing system," he added.
A prominent example: During the robbery of the Postbank in July 2022, the perpetrators used the car of a car rental company. A German-Polish man imprisoned for insurance fraud controlled the company from prison by cell phone; even fellow inmates knew that he is also said to have indirectly laundered the loot money of Arab clans with the car rental.
The bank's car was a rare model: the Audi RS6 Avant Performance has a 605-horsepower engine, accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds, according to the manufacturer, and can reach a top speed of 305 kilometers per hour. Only 20 cars of this model are registered in Berlin.
Police chief Slowik said there were several business models among the dubious lenders. Private individuals even had various vehicles registered with them and would rent them out, but then, in the event of an incident, would not know who was in possession of the car at the time. Companies offered the same service as reputable rental companies, but did not comply with the requirements for the rental or did not demand the usual securities from customers - age for high-powered cars, driver's license, complete documents and credit card.
"These different business models all serve one purpose, which is to allow targeted criminals to use vehicles, commit crimes or use the vehicles as a means of committing a crime or escaping," Slowik said. "Coke cabs are also served to a significant extent through this business model." In addition, he said, high-priced cars from these companies also attract attention for so-called "profiling" driving, which is more about loud engines than speeding.
These car rental companies are not a specific Berlin problem, he said, but a nationwide phenomenon. The companies deliberately work with "non-transparent rental contracts and chains of people". This makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify the drivers in individual cases.
The police work closely with leasing companies, insurance companies and tax offices to combat this phenomenon. There are also regular interdepartmental checks and joint operations at the relevant car rental companies and car dealerships. Money laundering investigators are also involved.
Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash