Seventeen men - aged between 19 and 48 years - have been arrested in connection to a multimillion car theft across Essex and east London.

Around 450 officers from Essex Police, the Met, and BTP were involved in the joint investigation of 90 stolen vehicles worth almost £5 million on Thursday, February 27.

Pre-dawn raids were executed, with officers now confirming that £180,000 in cash and stolen vehicles worth £1.1 million has been recovered.

Addresses were police investigated included Waltham Abbey, Leyton, West Ham, Romford, Stapleford Tawney, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Braintree, Southend, Rainham, Grays and Benfleet and Uttlesford.

Officers also confirmed that the use of a jankel to gain entry to a location in Navestock.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Around £5 million worth of cars are suspected to have been stolen

Acting Superintendent Lewis Basford, who lead the operation, said: “This was a really successful series of warrants where we’ve made a significant number of arrests, seized a large amount of money, and recovered dozens of stolen vehicles.

“If your car’s stolen it can have a big impact on your life. When you go to bed at night or park your car at the station to go to work, you have the right to expect it’ll be there when you go back to it.

“That’s why Essex Police, the Met, and BTP are working together to make sure they’re safe.

“We also know that groups carrying out vehicle thefts are involved in other types of crime, such as drugs, and that causes misery to our communities.

“That makes it doubly important to disrupt and dismantle these groups.”

The arrested men have now all either been released on bail or released under investigation pending further enquiries.

In addition to the arrests, 25 stolen vehicles and parts from other vehicles were recovered, ten stolen flat bed van backs worth £100,000 found, equipment used for making new identities for stolen vehicles, as well as equipment used to gain access to keyless cars, and key cutting equipment.

A cannabis factory containing about 200 cannabis plants was found at one location in east London.

A/Superintendent Basford added: “Organised crime groups who carry out vehicle theft are sophisticated and professional, and this investigation is complex and will take time.

“These warrants were the culmination of excellent collaborative working between three forces but the work does not end here.

“Essex Police, the Met, and BTP will continue to work hard together in order bring those responsible for stealing vehicles to justice.”

If we identify the victim of one of the stolen vehicles recovered, they will be contacted by the British Transport Police investigation team.