Auckland police have won an international award for breaking a car-theft ring that shipped the parts of hundreds of stolen Toyota vans from Auckland to the Middle East.

The Weekend Herald revealed last June that police intelligence discovered 550 Toyota vans were stolen over an 18-month period, but only 18 per cent were recovered. The normal recovery rate is 70 per cent.

Operation Beryl was launched and the three-month investigation led to convictions and jail terms for Brendan Matthew Cooper, 40, and Mohammed Salim Sahib, 30. The pair stole $220,000 of vans over two years to finance their $1000-a-day P habit.

The vans were stripped into parts and shipped overseas to be sold on the black market where they are valued for their durability in the desert sands of countries such as Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.