TWO business partners spent months and £15,000 importing a rare Indian taxi – only for it to be stolen and torched within two weeks of arriving in Scotland.
The restaurant owners bought the three-wheeled tuk tuk in Mumbai, haggled with bureaucrats in India and the UK, shipped it over 7,000 miles and lovingly restored the vehicle.
But joyriders stole the tuk tuk in Edinburgh on Monday night, and took it for a short ride, before burning it nearby.
The devastated pair, Tahmir Hussain, 22-years-old and Chisti Iftikar, 30-years-old, today hit out at the “ruthless” destruction of their iconic vehicle.
They said: “The team has been working hard over the last eight months, it’s been a real project of passion and it’s a shame that some hoodlums would ruthlessly destroy something so rare and vintage as an original bajaj Tuk Tuk.”
The tuk tuk was one of three, bought at a total cost of £45,000, to promote a new restaurant selling authentic Indian street food.
The businessmen also planned to use the three-seaters to ferry customers to and from the eaterie in the Tollcross area of the city.
Jackir Hussain was one of the team that managed the project, which started planning in September last year.
He and two colleagues travelled to Mumbai in April this year and tracked down three 15-year-old tuk tuks, paying £5,000 per vehicle.
Arranging the export of the vehicles with the Indian authorities cost another £2,000 per tuk tuk.
They then had to be shipped, at a cost of £3,000 per car, more than 7,000 miles from Mumbai to Dubai and then through pirate-infested waters near the horn of Africa before travelling through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean, and north to Southampton.
In May, the tuk tuks were then loaded onto a lorry and driven 480 miles north to Edinburgh.
Even then, a further £5000 per vehicle had to be spent on sourcing parts needed to bring them up to the standard required by the DVLA.
Resplendent in their orange livery, the tuk tuks were taken out on the roads for the first time a fortnight ago, giving trips for friends and family, ahead of the restaurant launch, said Mr Hussain.
But on Monday morning, horrified staff realised one of the tuk tuks was gone from outside a house in the Ravelston area of the city.
The thieves had broken the newly-installed locks, taken the vehicle on a 10-minute joyride and left the burned-out shell a mile away.
“I felt devastated when I found out,” said Mr Hussain.
“I would rather they stole my car, something I can easily replace.
“I put so many hours into fixing it up. We easily spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on fixing them up.”
The 25-year-old added: “It is just horrible. They took it a ten minute drive away just to burn it down.
“I have no idea who would do this. Think it must just be kids or something.”
He added: “There was a lot of work to be done by the time we got them to the UK.
“We had to change the indicator lights, the head lights, the sound of the horn and the starter engine to make sure the DVLA were happy.”
He also had to change the vehicles from running on gas to petrol to make it safer and easier for staff to refill the taxi cars.
“They are quite rare and old,” he said. “They are Bajaj models so about 15 years old and tend to break down every other day. You have to treat them like a classic, keep them warm and care for them.”
The tuk tuks had only been insured for third party so the owners will not receive a penny in compensation.
A police spokesperson said: “Police are investigating following the theft of a vehicle in Edinburgh overnight on Sunday 28th
October which was later found burnt out.”
“It was found burnt out in Succoth Close around 10.30am on Monday 29th October.
“Enquiries are ongoing to trace those responsible.”