FIVE men have appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court accused of stealing more than 1 million worth of plant.
This follows a police investigation, sparked by a tip-off from Construction News after a reporter spotted what he suspected were stolen diggers being moved.
The court was told that within days of the machines being taken from sites, they ended up in the hands of Paul Granger, 40, and his father John Granger. They were then shipped to sites across Europe.
The jury was told how the Grangers were helped in the operation by Alan Prescott, 47, and Max Cole, 47, who provided cover for the equipment with bogus documentation.
It was also told Kenneth Harris, 42, sometimes helped to ship the diggers abroad.
John Granger, 72, of Hollybush Hill, Snaresbrook, east London, is too ill to stand trial.
Prosecuting, Michael Wood said that between January 1992 and February 1995 large quantities of heavy plant were stolen, mostly from sites in England.
Paul Granger was arrested at his home in Roydon, Essex, on January 19 last year and three items of plant were recovered, including a fork-lift truck stolen only hours earlier. An investigation into the scam revealed that serial plates were being removed from JCBs and attached to the stolen machines.
Mr Wood said: The ringing was done in order to create the identity of genuine machines.
In the dock, Paul Granger, Harris, Prescott and Cole all deny charges of conspiracy to handle stolen plant.
The trial, expected to take up to two months, continues.