Imported secondhand vehicles from Japan are being smuggled illegally through Durban harbour – and many of them sold to South Africans – according to a newspaper report.

It has been reported that countless imported secondhand vehicles from Japan are being smuggled illegally through Durban harbour - and many of them sold to South Africans.


A consultant who works in co-operation with customs and the Department of Trade and Industry told the that there were “about 4 000 vehicles a month - more than 90 per cent of them from Japan - coming through the harbour."


It is believed that many are brought through the harbour legally as vehicles ostensibly destined for neighbouring countries and are then given false chassis and engine numbers and offered for sale through secondhand dealers in South Africa.


By implication, unsuspecting buyers - who are unaware that their vehicles are illegal imports - may see their vehicles confiscated without compensation.


Most of the vehicles came into the country in terms of agreements that allow them to be transported to landlocked neighbours like Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho.


"There are probably 20 secondhand dealers in Durban who have these vehicles for sale," the consultant was quoted as saying.

"The roadworthiness tests in Japan are extremely strict and the registration tax on a vehicle gets higher each year. A car of six years becomes a liability and Japan has huge scrapyards of unwanted vehicles”.


It appeared that the flood of used cars coming through Durban harbour had created opportunities for criminal activity.


"We know there are also stolen vehicles - most of them luxury cars and 4x4s - coming in with the secondhand imports,” the consultant added. "If a vehicle has service documents in Japanese or a luxury 4x4 has an Italian copy of the original key, you can be pretty sure there's something wrong."


This was confirmed by the deputy director of the KwaZulu-Natal Motor Licensing Bureau, Sue Grobbelaar, who said: “The vehicles are landed here and in terms of the National Road Traffic Act, we give them 48 hours in which to get roadworthy certificates.


"They get their certificates from the local testing stations and we are then obliged to give them a 21-day permit to travel to their place of registration."


Grobbelaar added that in spite of their roadworthy certificates, some of the vehicles were not fit to be on the road. "Some have been picked up by the traffic police. Now a lot of the drivers travel by night to avoid having their vehicles impounded."


Grobbelaar was worried about the dangers posed by the unroadworthy vehicles: "The drivers are not South Africans. They are here on temporary permits, so there is little control over them. Many are not worried about speed traps or the rules of the road."