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Phone thefts compare to drug trade

Michael Garwood
September 13, 2010

Profit from phone thefts compare to illegal drug trade but without comparable punishment, claim police

The Metropolitan Police last week compared the profitability to criminals of stolen mobile phones to the illegal drug trade.

It described a newly virulent crime scene in stolen handsets as a result of the the increasing value of devices, the high export demand for them and the low risk of serious imprisonment, compared with drug trading.

Speaking to Mobile News, Metropolitan Police detective inspector Mark Loving said stolen Apple iPhones can fetch up to £1,000 in certain overseas markets, and particularly in parts of Africa at present, and that most of the sum is taken as profit.

Mobile News understands criminals typically make £20,000 – £30,000 profit on selling a kilo of cocaine in western markets, equivalent to profit on the export of 20-30 iPhone devices, and face more serious convictions for such offences.

The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) recently arrested a Romanian family which had stolen around £240,000 of handsets from 30 retail stores including Phones 4U, Vodafone, Orange and O2 between January and April. The longest sentence of the six found guilty was 21 months.

Loving said: “It’s equivalent to the drug trade in profitability terms. But there isn’t that kind of massive jail sentence for stealing mobile phones. Mobile phones have quite a high value in terms of illegal export. These developing markets are restricted in terms of handset availability. Through IMEI tracking we know very few stolen handsets ever resurface on UK networks, they go outside. The maximum profit for them is in parts of Africa.”

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