Two men have been arrested as part of an investigation into the theft of more than £450,000 worth of solar panels.

An unnamed, non-UK company that specialises in the sale of solar panels reported that a large shipment of panels had gone missing in Kent earlier this month.

The goods were purchased by a company in the UK, but were not delivered to their intended destination. Instead, it is alleged that the lorries containing the panels were redirected to an industrial unit in Ashford, according to Kent Police. The panels have since disappeared without being paid for.

An investigation was launched by the Volume Fraud Team at Kent Police, and as part of the ongoing enquires, a 50-year-old man from Essex and a 23-year-old man from Havering were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to steal, the Police announced yesterday (25 March). The two men have been released on bail until Thursday 15 April 2021.

Detective Sergeant Marc Cananur said they are still investigating the circumstances of the incident, and added a reminder to businesses about distribution fraud. This is where scammers pose as well-known companies or businesses to make sure that their order for a product “looks authentic”.

“This means that companies, often from overseas, believe they are delivering goods to legitimate customers who intend to pay within 30 days following an invoice, something which is common practice within the industry,” continued Cananur. “Instead the goods get redirected and are never paid for, leaving unsuspecting businesses severely out of pocket.

“This doesn’t just happen to overseas businesses, anyone can become the victim of a scam so always check the delivery address, phone number and email domain name is genuine if someone has placed an order with you. Look the company up online and ask for upfront payment, especially on first-time orders.”

In 2019, thieves stole more than 150 panels from two solar farms in north Wales, which were taken from a storage container at one site, and from the actual farm at the other.

The year prior to that, operational sites in Lincolnshire and Norfolk were targeted in separate raids, while in 2017 police in Hampshire appealed for information for possible links between thefts at as many as six solar farms in the county.