The Equipment Register (TER) and police have finally recovered stolen plant exported to Israel – two years after they smashed a criminal gang responsible for trafficking £1m worth of equipment stolen in the UK.

Three members of the gang were sentenced to a total of 11 years in 1999, following a joint investigation by TER and detectives from the National Crime Squad (NCS).

But it has taken another two years for TER investigators to recover five items of stolen plant, which had been exported to Israel.

TER and the National Crime Squad (NCS) tracked the stolen plant to the Middle East, but were forced to petition an Israeli court to order its return to the UK, a process which took two years.

The plant included a JCB mini excavator, a forklift and a Land Rover truck stolen between 1997 and 1998.

TER became involved when police discovered the gang had loaded £150,000 worth of stolen vehicles into containers at Felixstowe Docks.

TER officers visited Israel and identified a further £55,000 worth of stolen plant.

However, a third party in Israel had claimed the items as his and TER investigators had to take him to court to prove ownership with UK insurers, which included Royal & Sunalliance, Avon Insurance and Colonia Baltica.

The investigators' plea was successful and the items have recently been returned to the UK.

Det Insp Peter Scott of the NCS, who led the investigation named Operation Eclipse, said: “The cooperation and assistance that TER has given the NCS has been outstanding. The NCS working with organisations such as TER can, and is, achieving significant results in the fight against international and organised crime.”

TER spokesman Tim Purbrick said: “This is a very successful operation from both a policing and a commercial view.

“Our pursuit of the equipment to Israel and through the courts is a demonstration to equipment thieves, the police and insurers of TER's determination and resolve to recover stolen equipment.”