Directors of two auto dealerships have been taken in for questioning by financial crime investigators as police mull pressing charges over the suspected tampering of mileage gauges on imported Japanese cars.

Three directors behind Rokku Autodealer in Għaxaq and Tal-Qasab Autosale in Santa Venera were interrogated by officers from the police’s Financial Crime Investigation Department on Thursday. 

They were being investigated over suspected fraud and money laundering and have been released on police bail. 

Sources close to the investigation told Times of Malta that the three men may be charged in the coming weeks, but added that the investigation is a complex one. 

In June, the Used Vehicles Importers Association suspended the two dealerships after the press exposed how they were allegedly tampering with the mileage gauges of cars imported from Japan.

At the time, Malta Today had reported that as many as 300 cars may have been affected.

The alleged racket began in 2019 and saw high-mileage cars bought cheaply in Japan and brought to Malta where their gauges were tampered with to fool drivers into thinking they were buying lesser-used cars.

The cars were sold after false information was imputed in local systems and forged Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (JEVIC) certificates were printed in Malta.

JEVIC has a publicly available online system where mileage and other vehicle details are logged, but the data was not checked thoroughly by Maltese authorities.  

Some cars had discrepancies of between 30,000km and 130,000km. 

Last month, Times of Malta reported that the consumer authority is wrapping up its own investigation into the matter.

The MCCAA said that 80 cases had been “resolved amicably”.

Consumers authority investigating

When the case first made headlines, car owners whose vehicles were tampered with were asked to formally complain to the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority. The authority had said it would investigate the claim and coordinate compensation.

After Times of Malta published a guide to help people verify the true mileage of their imported cars, a number of angry customers confirmed they had tens of thousands of kilometres wiped off their second-hand Mazdas and Toyotas.

Since the rigged odometer scam was exposed, 83 complaints have been made by consumers who were impacted.

Victims have received either a partial refund, a full refund or had their car transferred back to the dealer.

To date both dealers continue to operate, advertising their Japan car imports on Facebook.

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