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Canadian authorities have seized 598 stolen vehicles at Montreal port

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MONTREAL (AP) — Canadian authorities said Wednesday they prevented nearly 600 stolen vehicles from being exported overseas after searching 390 shipping containers at the Port of Montreal.

Around three-quarters of the 598 seized vehicles, with an estimated value of $34.5 million Canadian (US$25.5 million), were stolen in the neighboring province of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police and Canada Border Services Agency said.

A surge in auto thefts in Canada’s largest city of Toronto has left many residents frustrated.

Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner Marty Kearns told reporters in Montreal that investigations by police in Ontario led them to believe that a large percentage of stolen vehicles in that province “were destined for illegal export via the Port of Montreal.” As a result, he said, police and federal agencies in Quebec and Ontario launched Project Vector.

“As our intelligence indicated, the vast majority of recovered stolen vehicles, more than 430, were taken from the Greater Toronto Area,” Kearns said.

Thieves target relatively new vehicles, including high-end pickup trucks and SUVs, which are then exported to markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America, he said.

No arrests have yet been made as part of the three-and-a-half month operation.

Kearns said the operation has taken millions of dollars away from organized crime, and sent a message “that we are here, we are active.”

“We’re not done … we anticipate arrests and charges in the near future.”

Kearns said Project Vector is the latest in a series of police operations targeting vehicle thefts.

Some of the recovered vehicles have been involved in other crimes, Kearns said.

“For example, one of the recovered vehicles was linked to a carjacking involving a handgun, another vehicle was stolen from a driveway and then used for a residential break-in just hours later. In another instance, thieves invaded a home during the early morning, confronted the homeowners and made off with two vehicles,” he said.

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