Five men have been arrested after a risky cargo theft in the Netherlands where €500,000-worth of Apple iPhones were pilfered from a moving truck.
The theft took place on the night of 24 July, on the A73 motorway near Horst, towards the eastern Dutch border with Germany.
The men, who are Romanian and aged between 33 and 43, allegedly employed a cargo theft tactic that has been used several times over the past decade, which involves tailgating the truck in front, with one member of the criminal team then climbing onto the bonnet of their vehicle to break into the back of the truck.
In this case, the thieves then allegedly passed boxes of iPhones back to their mates through the sun roof of the getaway van while both vehicles were still moving.
The police investigation took a week to zero in on the suspects, who were arrested at a holiday park in Otterlo, Netherlands, with the stash of iPhones and the van believed to be involved in the crime, also found at the same address.
Police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said Dutch police had been investigating cargo thefts but were dubious about the tactics used, BBC News reported.
"The truck was taking its freight from A to B and did not stop. Even so [the phones] were gone. So, it must have happened that way. And now we finally have the evidence, with the van and the loot," he said.
The men have been accused of being responsible for the cargo theft of 17 trucks since 2015, local media have reported.
The cargo theft tactic – dubbed "the Romanian method" – has been used in Germany and Belgium before, often targeting trucks carrying smartphones.
The recent arrests are the first following reports of cargo thefts in this way.
The men's fingerprints will be shared with European police counterparts for potential matches with other thefts.
According to Dutch news outlet ED, the gangs will often modify their vehicles to improve the success of the operation, such as putting anti-slip mats on the bonnet of the vehicles.
The use of grinding wheels to cut into the back of trucks has also been seen.
The truck driver often would not detect the vehicle behind until it was too late because of the truck's blind spot.
There have also been reports that more than one vehicle is used in heists, where one drives in front of the truck to slow it down and another drives alongside the truck to stop it from changing lanes.
At the start of last year, Freightwatch International reported an increase in anecdotal reports of the tactic being used.
Last year in July, four people were arrested in Belarus in connection with a series of cargo thefts from moving trucks along the M1 highway between Brest, Minsk, and the Russian border. The thieves allegedly used specially modified vehicles to board the moving trucks.
According to the British Standards Institution this year, there has been a notable shift in cargo theft trends and tactics in Europe, predominantly across Germany and Italy. In BSI's recent report it estimates that nearly half of all cargo truck thefts were incidents where thieves slashed the tarpaulins of trailers to steal the cargo.
Meanwhile, cargo theft across Europe, the Middle East and Africa increased 105 per cent in 2016's third quarter compared with the same period in 2015. The figures from the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) revealed 489 recorded losses in 25 countries for the three months ending 30 September, which equates to more than five thefts a day. The year 2016 had the highest rate of cargo crimes in the past six years, the association reported.