Government

US Government Was Forced To Return Luxury Cars It Seized In 2013

This is a big win against government civil forfeiture.

Last Summer, we reported that the federal government seized 12 BMW X5 SUVs that were owned by a Chinese couple who own a company in Tennessee. The cars were seized because the couple were allegedly planning to export the them to China where they could likely be sold at double or even triple their US prices. The New York Times has just had an updated reported on this case that's been ongoing since 2013. A Manhattan federal jury ruled in favor of the Efans Trading Corporation and ordered the return of the cars and the $3 million from the company's bank account.

For a bit of background on what Civil Forfeiture is, John Oliver did an interesting segment that explains how the government can take your stuff with very little evidence or paperwork.

This is the same rule that has been used in the past to piss off car enthusiasts when the government seized and crushed Land Rover Defender models that were suspected of beingless than 25 years old, and Nissan Skyline models that were illegally badged as a 240. Most of these cases go uncontested, but this recent case shows that the government can be defeated in court over these seizures. Benjamin J. Razi, a partner with the law firm Covington & Burling, which represented Efans said that “We are grateful that the jury saw this case for the government overreach that it was." This case is still a bit different from others because it involves exporting rather than importing.

Companies like Efans have taken advantage of a high demand for luxury cars in China by purchasing cars here in the US and exporting them for a large profit. However, to buy these luxury cars from US dealerships, Efans needed to use "straw buyers," which are essentially fake customers who go to the dealership and purchase the cars on the company's behalf. It isn't an illegal practice, but the automakers certainly aren't happy with it. Civil forfeitures will definitely be an issue that the current Trump administration might need to tackle. President Trump has sided with law enforcement on this issue, so we may not get the reforms that we would like to see in this area.

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