Two men have been jailed after stealing vehicles worth in excess of £1 million.

Mantas Balciunas from Somerset and Liaqat Ali from Ilford were sentenced to time in prison today, Friday, April 12 at Southwark Crown Court.

Balciunas, 35, of Clevedon Road in Midsomer Norton, Somerset was found guilty of handling stolen goods and conspiracy to handle stolen goods and was today sentenced to a total of seven and a half years' imprisonment.

Ali, 47, of Westrow Gardens in Ilford was found guilty of conspiracy to handle stolen goods and was sentenced today to four years' and three months' imprisonment.

The investigation named Operation Hipsometer targeted two men who were receiving stolen motorcycles and Mercedes Sprinter vans stolen from across London before selling them on as cloned vehicles or as parts via Ebay.

Police identified more than 100 vehicles that the pair were responsible for handling between April 2012 and September 2017 which was worth more than £1 million.

The vehicles had been either dismantled and sold as parts, used to repair genuinely damaged vehicles, or sold as complete vehicles to unknowing purchasers via Ebay, after their identity had been disguised with false number plates.

On June 27, 2017, officers executed a search warrant at Balciunas' address in Midsomer Norton where he lived with his wife and young child.

Police found a stolen van outside his house, which Balciunas was in the process of converting into a camper van or mobile workshop and a second stolen cloned Sprinter van was found parked nearby with parts from other vans recently stolen from Kent.

A further warrant executed found another work unite on a remote farm in Frome in Somerset where stolen motorcycles were stripped and stolen van parts were stored.

Between 2014 and 2017, Balciunas sold more than 40 stolen motorcycles and Sprinter Vans to unwitting buyers via three Ebay accounts he used.

The majority of the vehicles had been stolen from London and the Home Counties.

Met officers established that Balciunas and Ali were working together.

On September 19, 2017, warrants were executed at Ali's home in Ilford and his business address on Clockhouse Lane in Romford.

Ali was operating a number of businesses from this yard including a mini cab rental and repair service, vehicle breakers, vehicle recovery and a storage facility comprising of shipping containers for rent.

During this search, parts relating to yet more stolen vehicles were discovered - they had been stolen via a number of methods, including keyless car theft, robbery, test drive theft and burglary.

Both men were charged with the above offences in February 2018. They appeared at Southwark Crown Court where they pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen property.

The trial started on Wednesday, February 27 and the men were found guilty on March 15.

Detective Constable Gavin Smith of the Met's Organised Vehicle Crime Unit, who led the investigation, said: "These two men ran a prolific and well-organised criminal enterprise.

"Balciunas was prepared to go to great lengths to convince purchasers that they were purchasing a legitimate vehicle and our investigation linked the offenders to a substantial number of offences.

“Ali had clearly been operating a safe haven to which stolen vehicles from across London were taken for a number of years, prior to our intervention.

"I hope today's sentence serves as a deterrent to those involved in this type of brazen criminality and reminds them that we will not stop bringing those responsible to justice."

During this search, parts relating to yet more stolen vehicles were discovered. These vehicles had been stolen via a number of methods, including keyless car theft, robbery, test drive theft and burglary.

An etching machine, designed to etch vehicle identity numbers (VINs) was recovered from one of the containers linked to Balciunas.