The government just loves taking people’s cars!
At a port in Staten Island, NY, six shipping containers were seized by US Customs and Homeland Security. The contents of these containers were not drugs or weapons but 12 BMW X5 SUVs. The BMWs were traced back to a couple, Yifan Kong and his wife, Erxin Zhou, who moved to the US from China in 2006. The couple is now in the middle of a forfeiture case for selling the SUVs on the grey market. These cars cost around $50k to $100k in the US and can be resold for around $150k to $300k in China. The couple’s lawyer says this is not illegal.
Randy Fishman represents the couple in this case. The government is seeking forfeiture of $7 million in assets. Fishman makes light of the situation by telling USA Today “I may not like someone selling hot dogs, but it’s not against the law.” He will attempt to prove that it is not against the law to ship cars out of the US. Manufacturers require that dealerships makes sure that customers don’t intend to export vehicles. This is mainly to maintain parts and warranty work as well as keep track of open recalls. The couple used fake buyers known as straw buyers who could buy the X5s on their behalf and bypass the manufacturers. This all sounds like the government will probably lose here. Two similar cases have resulted in the return of the seized property.
We are used to the government seizing imported vehicles, and know they are targeting exported vehicles. The couple’s attorney described the practice as simple capitalism, buying low and selling high. He says “if they (dealerships) sell a car to me, I don’t know why I couldn’t do whatever I want with it.” We don’t see any real reason why the couple should have their cars seized. While the practice of exporting luxury cars to China may not be the most honorable, it is a great way to make money and the government doesn’t seem to have much of a case against it.