Dermot Graham bought a Ford B-Max similiar to the one pictured in May
A SECOND-hand car dealer who unwittingly bought a stolen car in the UK has been given the go ahead to sell the vehicle after a judge ruled he was the legal owner of the vehicle.
The English-registered silver Ford B-Max was seized by gardai earlier this year after they were alerted to its status.
During a Police Property Application, which was heard at Limerick District Court, Judge Marie Keane was told there was a dispute as to who owns the vehicle and that gardai were seeking clarity from the court as to who it should be returned to.
”The vehicle is not the property of gardai, we are trying to source the owner,” said Detective Garda Anthony O’Driscoll.
Both Dermot Graham of Coonagh Road, Coonagh and Lex Autolease, which has a registered address at Stockport, England were notice parties to the application.
In his evidence, Mr Graham said he buys and imports around 40 second-hand cars a year and that he was not aware the Ford B-Max had been stolen when he bought it.
Having viewed the car online, he said he agreed to buy it on May 9, last and travelled to Enfield, near London the following day to collect it.
Mr Graham told the court he met a man who he believed to be the owner and paid him £4,700 in cash before driving the car back to Limerick.
“I had no reason to doubt anything,” he said explaining he had conducted an online search and had received various documentation including the log book and service history.
He said he first learned there was a problem when he attempted to register the vehicle in this jurisdiction a number of days later but was unable to do so.
After he attended at Henry Street garda station, Mr Graham was informed the car had been reported stolen in the UK and that it was being seized by gardai.
Judge Keane was told the car, which had been leased to another company by Lex Autolease, was stolen from the car park of a swimming pool in February of this year and that a ‘cloned’ licence plate was fitted on the vehicle before it was advertised for sale online.
Detective Garda O’Driscoll told the court the VIN number on the windscreen was interfered with to ensure it matched the various documentation which was given to Mr Graham.
A solicitor representing Lex Autolease submitted Mr Graham should have been more diligent and should have checked the second VIN on the main body of the car and not just on the windscreen
She said the 2013-registered car had a retail value of almost £14,000 and that Mr Graham should have exercised more caution given the bargain price he paid.
Mr Graham insisted he had done everything by the book adding that checks performed as late as last week did not show the car as being reported stolen.
Ruling the car should be returned to Mr Graham, Judge Keane said there was no more that he could have done.
“I’m satisfied he carried out the appropriate searches,” she said adding that she did not believe there was any significance to the price he paid for the car.
The judge also commented that it was “very disturbing” that online searches relating to the car were still showing up as clear – several months after the car had been seized by gardai.