JAKARTA - Indonesian police is stepping up raids on motorists who use vehicles with no ownership certificates and use bogus license plates, as it clamps down on rampant theft and smuggling activities in the vast archipelago.
Whether a basic motorcycle, a fancy Harley Davidson or a fast Ferrari, criminal brokers can source a "kendaraan bodong" illegally sought by clients.
The buyers will only need to pay a third of the price at a showroom. Some brokers have even posted ads on social media and a marketplace portal olx.co.id.
With the economy booming and poor public transport, demand for such vehicles is high.
"The demand is always there. This is what makes the kendaraan bodong problem persist," urban planning expert Mr Yayat Supriatna told The Straits Times.
He said the "very negotiable" prices of these illegal vehicles make them attractive to people who want to quickly upgrade their social status, or those who want to impress potential business partners.
Police said last November (2017) that it impounded 30 "kendaraan bodong" from roads in Jakarta.
Many were cars that were purchased by the motorists from a broker. The broker himself got these cars from their previous owners who ran away after failing to service their car loans with finance companies.
In the same month, police nabbed two culprits at a fast food chain outlet in North Jakarta, after plainclothes officers pretended to be potential buyers. The duo had posted an ad on Facebook, selling a motorcycle at a suspiciously low price, alerting the police to a potential criminal activity.
In September last year, police picked up a Lamborghini and a Ferrari on Batam island and a Harley Davidson motorcycle in Bali.
These expensive rides were about to be shipped to Bandung in West Java, where a syndicate would prepare bogus ownership certificates.
A new Harley Davidson is sold in Jakarta for at least 650 million rupiah (S$63,822), but one with a bogus license plate and ownership certificate could be bought for about 250 million rupiah.
A new Lambhorghini could easily set one back by 10 billion rupiah. Indonesia applies a 125 per cent luxury goods tax on sports cars and motorcycles with engine size above 500cc. This excludes other costs such as a 10 per cent tax rate to apply for an ownership certificate. Buyers must also pay a 1.5 per cent annual tax.
An errant motorist nabbed with kendaraan bodong would have breached at least two laws - evading taxes and driving an unregistered vehicle.
But these illegal sales are popular because the vehicles carry a price tag of as low as a third of the legal ones.
Additionally, if caught, one would just need to pass the vehicle to the authorities and then pay the 500,000 rupiah (S$49) fine.
There are no known case where the offender gets the maximum two months in jail as stipulated by the law.
Police have in recent months broken up a counterfeit motorcycle ownership certificate.
In Bandung city near Jakarta, where customers were charged between 5 million and 6 million rupiah (between S$490-S$590) for a fake motorcycle ownership certificate, according to Sindonews.
This dark business has also lured rogue policemen.
In January last year, a police chief of Burau in South Sulawesi province was caught selling stolen cars with counterfeit BPKB, the vehicle ownership certificates, to local residents and fellow policemen.
As part of his after-sales service, he told his "customers" to come back to him when the sold car's annual registration certificate (STNK) are up for renewal after a year, as he could help get a new certificate.
The criminal enterprise was uncovered when one of the car buyers opted to file for STNK himself and was told his car was actually not registered in the system.
Said Mr Yayat, the urban planning expert: "Kendaraan bodong are especially rampant in the suburbs and villages where supervision is minimal and law enforcement is sometimes lenient."
Local media have reported cases of stolen motorcycles from cities being transported and sold to errant companies running oil palm plantations in remote areas.