BMW employees are typically given an employee discount on some of the company’s products, but some factory workers, employed at a plant in Munich, Germany, reportedly felt entitled to a five-finger discount. New reports suggest they managed to steal roughly $4.7 million to sell on the black market.
According to the Süddeutsche newspaper, 18 people were reportedly involved in the elaborate scheme, albeit three are currently in police custody. Although a number of those involved had been employed by the automaker for almost a decade, it’s unknown exactly how long the ring had operated.
Until a number of recent raids around Munich — which apparently uncovered a disproportionate number of seats, emblems, and other parts stashed around the city — the group had operated with relative ease. One member would forge production orders for a certain section of the factory, and once parts arrived, would order quality control checks on the new parts. Another member, conveniently employed as a QA inspector, allegedly would spot the parts, declare them faulty, and order them junked.
Instead of heading to a scrap bin, however, the parts were smuggled out of the factory and sold both online and through local auto parts dealers in on the scheme. Parts smuggled and sold included wheel arches, gearshift knobs, brakes, blank keys, steering columns, and car seats — the latter reportedly the most profitable items leveraged by the gang. Profits were channeled to foreign bank accounts — primarily in Turkey — to help the gang avoid detection for quite some time.
A BMW spokesperson told the German Süddeutsche newspaper that the majority of its 31,000 employees in Munich are honest, but there are always exceptions. These exceptions proved to be exceptionally good at their side project.