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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City's Car Thieves Go on a Bentley Binge

MTA pedestrian standing by a Bentley worth $320,000 on Okhotny Ryad on Monday. Seven of the British luxury cars have been stolen in Moscow this summer.
Stock market wobbles may not have cut many Moscow multimillionaires down to size yet, but if you've been keeping count, you may have noticed fewer Bentleys cruising the city's streets.

Three Bentleys have been stolen in the last two weeks, a city police spokesman said Monday, bringing the total of the British-made luxury cars stolen this summer alone to seven, Interfax reported. Only one of the cars has been recovered.

After opening a showroom in the city in 2003, the Bentley quickly became a symbol of affluence for the country's nouveaux riches, and no high-end club is worth its salt unless it has a Bentley clumsily parked out front and blocking traffic.

The budget models, for $270,000 and up, seem to be the most popular with pop and sports stars, while classic models, starting at about $470,000, are the choice of the business elite. The extra-long Arnage RL is said to be especially popular in Russia, as it allows the owner to sit even farther away from the driver.

The most recent theft took place sometime Thursday night on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, and the owner only discovered the crime when she arrived in her courtyard to find a Bentley-sized space where her $330,000 Continental GT had been parked.

The 25-year-old owner was unemployed, Interfax reported, prompting one reader on tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda's web site to comment "How terrible. Unemployed and she had her car stolen."

Last week, Olympic water polo champion Vladimir Zhmudsky had his Bentley stolen from Frunzenskaya Naberezhnaya.

Whoever is making off with the cars is hurting not only the owners of the luxury machines but also Bentley owners in general, as their already hefty insurance premiums are now on the rise.

Rosno, one of the country's largest insurance companies, has raised its rates for Bentley cars in light of the recent thefts, Dmitry Kuznetsov, of the company's motor insurance center, said in e-mailed comments Monday. The company has also upped its satellite alarm system requirements for Bentley owners.

Kuznetsov refused to provide concrete figures for the size of premiums, saying the cost varied from car to car and owner to owner.

Earlier this year, Rosno made a $175,800 insurance payout after a different Bentley Continental GT was stolen.

The one car that has been recovered to date was found abandoned on a city street, a police spokesman said Monday.

Six missing Bentleys may seem like a small number, considering there were more than 13,000 cars reported stolen in the first seven months of 2007, according to Interior Ministry statistics. Given the relatively small number of the cars in the country, however, it is still a pretty hefty figure.

The Moscow Bentley showroom refused to comment Monday on how many Bentleys there were in the capital, but they have put the figure of vehicles imported per year at 300 in past interviews.

Police, meanwhile, refused Monday to speculate whether the rash of thefts was the work of different thieves, one gang, or a single Bentley fan with an extra-large garage.

The theft of a car worth more than many people's apartments is unlikely to be a chance occurrence. Most luxury cars are stolen to order, said Maxim Prikhodov, an editor at automotive magazine Za Rulyom.

"It's like the black market for art. Some steal paintings by Kandinsky or Malevich," he said. "The Bentley is also art."

One Bentley still in place is that of flamboyant singer Nikolai Baskov, who rents it out to a limousine service when he's not riding in it himself.

Anton, an employee at the limo service who refused to give his surname, said he was not worried that Baskov's Bentley might be stolen.

First of all, it is always under guard or in a secure garage, he said. Second, since the car is customized, it would be impossible to hide or sell on to another owner.

Baskov's Bentley, which is more than 9 meters long, was made from two separate models that were cut up and stuck together.

"There might even be a third one in there," Anton said.