Noisy, bulky and instantly recognizable, a tractor may seem a difficult object to steal. But a gang operating in France managed to steal around 50 of the vehicles, worth €5 million ($6.1 million), Le Figaro reports.
The thieves have been targeting isolated car dealers in the countryside since late 2010, police said. Striking at night, the farming machinery bandits broke into a series of padlocked car parks, stealing brand-new tractors and driving them onto a covered articulated truck before setting off.
Police investigators identified more than 25 raids on French car dealers.
The tractors, each worth between €70,000 and €300,000, were moved through Germany, Austria and Hungary, before they were sold in Romania.
"We were facing a very organized criminal operation," chief investigator Jean-Philippe Reiland told Le Figaro. "Investigations are still ongoing with local authorities."
On July 15th, four gang members were caught in the act and detained by the police. They were driving down a road in Brittany with three large tractors they had stolen in the town of Le Rheu, near Rennes.