A WORLDWIDE hunt is under way for a crime gang targeting high-value farm equipment following a £220,000 raid.
Crooks struck overnight near Macmerry and made off with a JBC and two tractors.
The heavy plant – vital for the day-to-day agricultural operation – are feared to have been taken by organised thugs who transport them abroad.
It comes weeks after rural insurer NFU mutual warned farmers in Scotland that serious and organised criminal gangs are now using plant and machinery taken from rural businesses as currency.
International investigators believe the scores of tractors, quad bikes and other equipment stolen each year in Scotland is being shipped abroad.
Criminals know they are under constant surveillance and cannot readily trade in large amounts of cash without alerting the authorities.
Banks and other financial institutions have strict money laundering regulations and have to report any high-value or suspicious transactions.
Robbie Wallace, of NFU Mutual, said: “Farm vehicle theft is big business for the organised gangs who are stealing expensive vehicles and farm equipment and either cloning it for sale here, or shipping it across the world
“A new breed of brazen and determined thieves is using a combination of brute force and technological know-how to target the countryside.”
Customers for the criminals are in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Others have been found in Albania, the Balkan states, Greece, Spain and Italy after being shipped with false paperwork.
An investigation carried out by insurers discovered four-by-four vehicles stolen from homes, farms and businesses in Scotland were ending up in the hands of extremist groups, opium growers and warlords.
One Mitsubishi Shogun, stolen from Aberdeenshire, was spotted by a satellite and photographed on a hillside in Afghanistan.
Police Scotland officers investigating the Macmerry raid say the JBC was worth £100,000 and the tractors £60,000 each.
It is not being revealed if any of the three was fitted with a tracker device.
The gang struck between 8pm on Wednesday 28th and 7am on Thursday 29th November. The distinctive JBC has the registration number SK07 GUD. The other two vehicles are a blue New Holland tractor, registration SN10 EBL, and a green and yellow John Deere, registration SN14 OZV.
Detective Sergeant Cameron Walker said: “This was not likely to have been a discreet theft, with the stolen vehicles believed to have been loaded onto a transporter.
“As part of our investigations, we’d urge anyone who may have seen suspicious behaviour or the vehicles being transported from the area during this time to get in touch with us immediately.
“Likewise, anyone who might know the whereabouts of the stolen vehicles is asked to contact either us or report this information anonymously to Crimestoppers.”
Those with information can call Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 0614 of November 29, or report anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
For advice on rural visit www.scotland.police.uk/ruralcrime.