hot pursuit | 

French police seek catalytic converter thief who is ‘likely Irish’ after car chase

Two men were later charged and remanded in custody, but a third individual, “probably of Irish nationality”, is still at large, according to police.

Catalytic converters are coated with precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum. Photo: Stock

Eamon DillonSunday World

French police hunting a suspected Irish catalytic converter thief after a dramatic motorway pursuit have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Two men were later charged and remanded in custody, but a third individual, “probably of Irish nationality”, is still at large, according to police.

Officers in Limoges made the appeal this week after the chase over several kilometres between the city and the town of Bellac on 22 October.

It began when a man raised the alarm after spotting the masked gang as they attempted to cut the converter out of a car parked on a city street in broad daylight.

It was reported by France 3 they hit three other vehicles during their attempt to escape before crashing their Irish-reg light grey Opel Insignia in Bellac with two men initially escaping the scene.

Police used a helicopter and two drones as well as a dog unit but one of the suspects managed to escape.

One of the suspects was arrested by motorcycle officers at the crash scene and the second man was caught a number of hours later, but the third man is still wanted.

They said he is ‘likely Irish’ and has been living in the UK in recent years.

It is believed he had been in a hotel or B&B in the Haute-Vienne region between October 15 and 21.

He was then with two men, and they were traveling in the same light grey Opel Insignia with Irish license plates.

One or more women could have also been with the three men during their stay in the area, it was reported.

Authorities have said they believe the men are part of a wider gang that targets the theft of catalytic converters which contain valuable trace metals.

Limoges police are investigating if the group is linked to any other thefts in the country and if other suspects are involved.

A number of Irish gangs are believed to be operating the scam both here and in the UK which involves cutting the converter out of a car’s exhaust,

The catalytic converter is a section of a vehicle’s exhaust where gases from the engine are passed over and through a metal that breaks down pollutants.

They contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which are then brought by the gangs to specialist metal refiners who can extract the precious metals inside.

Organised criminals have been cashing in because the stolen converters cannot be traced back to an individual vehicle.

Depending on the type of catalytic converter, there can be up to seven grams of precious metals in the CAT and the criminals can get anything between €100 to €300 for each unit they steal and then sell on.

The damage caused by the thefts from the vehicles usually cost much more than what the thieves make from it.

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