NISSAN bosses spent more than £850,000 beefing up security after its plant was targeted by a cunning criminal gang.
Thieves got into the Nissan compound by blending their van in with other vehicles at peak busy times such as shift changes.
Once inside the “labyrinth” of the sprawling factory site, the gang used insider knowledge to help themselves from a car park filled with new vehicles.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that on January 10, three Nissan Qashqais, worth £21,000 each, were stolen from the plant.
An £18,000 Nissan Juke was taken at around the same time.
In February, a security guard foiled the theft of another Juke when he got into a struggle with one of the thieves and was assaulted.
Nissan got back all of the stolen vehicles, but the company’s policy is they cannot now be sold for profit.
As a result of the criminal activity Nissan spent more than £850,000 updating its security systems.
Prosecutor Tom Moran told the court: “Nissan have decided to review security in a very significant and very expensive way.
“They have spent £850,000 in additional security methods that they would not have spent otherwise.”
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday John Lamb, 32, of Oaklands Terrace, Sunderland, was jailed for three years for his part in the scam.
Steven Harland, 30, of Pear Tree Mews, Ashbrooke, was jailed for two years.
Both admitted theft and handling charges.
Mr Recorder Sandiford told them: “This had, in my judgement, all the hallmarks of professional offending, motivated by the prospect of making profit.”
Mr Moran told the court Nissan is one of the biggest employers in the region and the production plant has security barriers and guards at its many entrances.
On January 10, Lamb, Harland and another man drove onto the site in a cleaning company van at the time of a shift change.
Mr Moran said: “The prosecution case is they must have had some sort of knowledge of where to go.
“Those who work at Nissan describe it as a labyrinth once you are inside the site, with little in the way of signs to indicate where to go.
“They went to an area used to keep cars that have been manufactured and would have no registration plates fitted at that stage.”
The court heard the trio put stolen number plates on two newly made Quashqais then two men drove one each away while the third drove the van out.
Later the same day, Lamb was back at the factory with another accomplice.
Harland was not involved in that theft but admitted handling the stolen vehicle.
Shortly afterwards a Nissan Juke was stolen in the same way, which Lamb and Harland both admitted handling.
On February 20, Lamb and two accomplices sneaked through a security barrier by deliberately driving alongside a large transporter vehicle.
A guard realised the gang were trying to make off with a Nissan Duke and was assaulted by Lamb as he stopped them getting away.
Lee Fish, defending, said Lamb was motivated by “economic necessity” but now wants to turn his back on crime.
Nigel Barnes, also defending, said Harland was forced to become involved when he fell into debt with loan sharks after his industrial cleaning business started to struggle.