Drivers shell out to have permits and plates returned Cross-border truck drivers who have their mainland vehicle permits or number plates stolen are paying up to $3,000 to the thieves who offer to return them. Tse Long, vice-chairman of the Container Transportation Employees General Union, said most of the thefts went unreported because drivers chose to make deals with the thieves to save time in getting back their cross-border vehicle permits and number plates. The union says there are about 10 such incidents every month. Mr Tse said most thefts happened in Shenzhen, although some occurred in Hong Kong and elsewhere on the mainland. Police warned drivers who paid to get their stolen property back that they could be held criminally liable for assisting offenders in committing a crime. 'A note written with the number of a mainland mobile phone is left in the cabin after each theft. When drivers call the number, criminals demand between $2,000 and $3,000 to sell the number plate or permit back to drivers,' Mr Tse said. 'Drivers are usually told to deposit the money into a designated bank account on the mainland. Once the thieves receive the money, the drivers are told to collect their licence plates or permits in a pay booth or next to a rubbish bin in Shenzhen two or three hours later.' He said most drivers chose to pay because they did not want to delay their shipments. It takes two or three days to get a temporary number plate or permit. The union said such thefts first started about five years ago. Mr Tse said the situation had improved last year after mainland police stepped up patrols and drivers were alerted to the problem. He also said it was now quicker to get new permits and licence plates. 'Previously, it took several weeks to issue the new ones. Right now, temporary permits and licence plates are available in two or three days,' Mr Tse said. In Hong Kong, two drivers have reported the theft of their cross-border driving permits from their trucks this year. Between 20 and 30 cases were reported last year.