Cars are stolen every day in Ireland. From outside our houses, our workplaces, from the streets. Some are unfortunate enough to have their car destroyed before they can get it back. Most people will not receive a receipt for it.

This is exactly what happened to Ahmed Makki, who found that his Toyota Corolla had gone missing from outside his home in Dublin.

The car was old, he had transferred the insurance to a newer car and the tax was out of date, but the Corolla was well maintained and had a valid NCT. Ahmed had planned to sell it.

He immediately reported it stolen to gardaí, and asked around his neighbours to see if there was CCTV footage of the theft.

Two of his neighbours had clear footage of a truck pulling into the estate. Two men get out of the truck and drive away with Ahmed's car on the back. The truck and the men have still not been identified.

Ahmed Makki speaking to Prime Time

Ahmed left the matter in the hands of gardaí, but things took an unexpected turn with a letter in the post.

"After I reported the car to the garda, I got a certificate of destruction. So, my car has been destroyed. I was shocked because I didn't give any permission to anyone to recycle my car," he said.

Ahmed’s car had been crushed by the Hammond Lane Metal Company, a licensed end-of-life facility in Ringsend.

There is no suggestion that Hammond Lane had anything to do with the theft of the vehicle and the company acted in good faith when the car was delivered to them.

Hammond Lane Metal Company said that the recycling of Ahmed’s car was in keeping with the terms of its licence and that all correct procedures were followed.

Hammond Lane also told Prime Time that "where a vehicle has been recorded as stolen on the National Vehicle Database the system says that and will not allow a certificate of destruction to be processed".

Ahmed wanted answers. There are specific regulations around end-of-life vehicles in Ireland, how they need to be processed and the kind of documentation a person needs to present when bringing a car to be recycled.

How could his car be crushed without his presence, his consent or his vehicle’s registration documents? Clearly, the system is flawed.

His quest for answers brought him in touch with nine separate agencies or authorities. It was a frustrating process, as he picked his way through a quagmire of responses, most of which sent him in a different direction.

One of the bodies he spoke to, the National Transfrontier Waste Shipment Office, did provide some answers. They conducted an investigation and were able to tell Ahmed that the car was delivered to Hammond Lane by a licensed waste collector.

This waste collector had picked up the vehicle from a man in a yard in Balbriggan. The car had been partially dismantled by the time it was collected. When the NTFSO visited the site, they were told that the man who supplied the car had left the country.

John Dockrell speaking to Prime Time

We know that the price of second-hand vehicles has soared since the pandemic, so there’s also an additional premium on second hand car parts.

John Dockrell operates, a licensed facility in Ballyboughal, Co. Dublin. He told Prime Time that there is now a greater incentive for thieves to take parts like catalytic converters and cut them straight off cars, or to steal the entire car and strip it for parts.

"They’re all different. Catalytic converter ranges from anything from €20 up to €1000 for the most exotic ones. Engines, gearboxes, especially Toyota. Very exportable, very easy to move. That's the biggest problem," he said.

In the middle of his investigations, Ahmed received a strange phone call. It was from the man who had supplied the car to the waste collector. He said he’d bought the car in good faith, intending to salvage the parts for scrap.

Ahmed asked him who he bought the car from, but the man didn’t answer him. Instead, he offered Ahmed what he said was a fair price for the car. Ahmed refused.

Even with the knowledge of how his car had arrived at Hammond Lane, Ahmed still had no answers on how it was allowed to be destroyed. Ultimately, his inquiries led him to the body that issued the licence for Hammond Lane to operate – the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA investigated the matter and informed Ahmed that Hammond Lane operated within the terms of its licence, and the EPA was satisfied that it had acted properly in its recycling of Ahmed’s car.

The EPA confirmed to Prime Time that this is the case. Per its licence, there is no obligation on Hammond Lane to obtain the vehicle’s registration documents and the process they followed with Ahmed’s car was entirely compliant with the terms of its licence.

The licence requires the person delivering the vehicle to provide ID and sign a declaration stating that they own the vehicles or have permission from the owner of the vehicle to destroy it. In this case, the document was signed by the licensed waste collector who delivered the car.

While these are the terms of the licence, one of the requirements of people bringing vehicles to be recycled, as set out in the 2006 regulations on end of life vehicle is "notwithstanding anything contained in any regulation, the end-of-life vehicle's registration document except where that document has been lost stolen or otherwise destroyed".

So, if the regulations stipulate that the vehicle’s registration documents must be presented, why is the EPA issuing licences that omit this requirement?

Prime Time put this question to the EPA but it could provide no answer, stating that because the case of Ahmed Makki’s car is subject to a criminal investigation, it could not comment any further.

Ultimately, the main issue here appears to be an inconsistency between what is set out in the licence and what is set out in the regulations.

Geraldine Herbert speaking to Prime Time

For motoring journalist Geraldine Herbert, this inconsistency is a concern.

"The only way you can prove that the car is actually being disposed of by the person who is the rightful owner is with these documents," she said.

"These documents are not hard to get, if you lose them and you have an older car, they can be replaced. That’s why there’s no way that an authorised facility should actually be looking at any car, dealing with any car, that doesn’t have legal documents."

Ahmed Makki agreed. "My car has been taken without paying the price to me," he said.

"So someone, I believe, should pay the price. I believe the system allows them to easily get rid of the car. But this is not the big issue. The big issue is to stop this from happening to other people."

He has done his part in trying to prevent it from happening to anyone else. This has been a process that has gone on since last September.

He has been in contact with nine separate bodies and authorities but still has no answers. No State body or regulator has taken any responsibility for his car being destroyed without his consent.

Prime Time asks him if at any point, anybody involved in this process has admitted that anybody did anything wrong. His answer is simple. "No".