British Columbia

Hunt for Porsche Cayenne leads from Winnipeg to Kelowna to 'possibly in Asia'

A bailiff's search for the missing Porsche Cayenne began at the University of Manitoba. But he soon recognized that line of inquiry was a "red herring" and then followed the luxury vehicle's path to Kelowna. His best bet about its current location? "Possibly in Asia."

Porsche Financial Services seeks return of luxury vehicle or nearly $70,000 it's owed

A Porsche Cayenne is pictured after its world premiere at an auto show in Detroit. A bailiff allegedly tracked a similar vehicle from Winnipeg to Kelowna — and beyond. (MARKETWIRE)

The bailiff's search for the missing Porsche Cayenne began at the University of Manitoba — where he set about examining all 7,700 parking spots.

The university's director of security described the task as "a true 'needle in a haystack scenario" and the bailiff soon saw that line of inquiry for the "red herring" it was.

He ultimately followed the luxury vehicle from Winnipeg to Kelowna — where he found the woman believed to have bought it. But the Porsche was nowhere to be seen.

His best bet as to its current location?

"A likely destination for the vehicle would be overseas," bailiff Phil Carver wrote in a report included in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit. "Possibly in Asia, where the regime for registering the vehicle would be different than exists in North America."

Straw buyers in a grey market

Porsche Financial Services of Canada is now suing Siyu Liu, the woman who allegedly signed a purchase contract for the vehicle in Winnipeg in August 2016.

The company is the latest car dealer to go to the courts to seek either the return of a luxury vehicle or the amount outstanding on the contract.

Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German has identified a grey market for luxury vehicles bought in Canada and shipped abroad. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

BMW and Mercedes have both filed similar suits against so-called 'straw buyers' in recent months.

The claims highlight a phenomenon described by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German in his most recent report on money laundering in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

German noted a tax structure and demand for high end cars in China that has created a "grey market for people willing to purchase these vehicles in North American locations and then ship them to China for a significant profit."

According to the lawsuit, Winnipeg is one of those locations.

Siyu entered into a seven-year contract to buy the white 2016 Porsche Cayenne for $105,419.

She made an initial down payment of $27,600 and agreed to pay $1,293 for the next 84 months. 

But she allegedly defaulted in January 2018, making five more partial payments before stopping altogether.

Porsche now wants back either the car or $69,330 still owing on the contract.

'I will have to resort to traditional methods'

Carver began his investigation in March 2019. His report details both the difficulties in trying to trace the car and the pitfalls of internet research.

Carver started his search at the address the dealership had on file for Liu.

"There was a fairly high number of 'high end' vehicles of virtually every luxury manufacturer noted on the property, with most parked or stored underground. The suspect vehicle was not located on the property," Carver wrote.

According to the civil claim, the University of Manitoba's campus security director said there are about 7,700 parking spots at the U of M. He likened the search for one car as a "needle in the haystack" scenario. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

"As such I will have to resort to traditional methods to locate this vehicle."

Carver found a University of Manitoba student with the same name through Facebook and LinkedIn and showed that picture to the residents of the apartment where the car's purchaser was supposed to live. But they didn't know her.

Finally, Porsche Financial Services provided Carver with a copy of Siyu Liu's driver's license.

"The person shown on the drivers license is a completely different person than the individual I've been seeking whose images I found on Facebook and LinkedIn," Carver wrote.

'This concludes our involvement'

From that point, the case came together quickly.

The owner of the Chinese food restaurant where Liu had claimed to work confirmed that he had never seen her before.

Carver said the record showed that Liu had relocated from Winnipeg to Kelowna in May 2017 and made a "sizeable down payment" on a house.

The Porsche lawsuit is the latest filed in B.C. Supreme Court by a luxury car manufacturer trying to reclaim a vehicle that has allegedly been sent to Asia.

"This would tend to indicate that Liu sold the vehicle at that time and the proceeds went towards a down payment for the home purchase," Carver wrote.

The car was nowhere to be seen.

Carver's report says Liu cancelled the Manitoba registration on the Porsche when she moved to Kelowna in 2017. And the vehicle hasn't been registered in Canada since.

"Based on all of the above information, I can state that a likely scenario is that Siyu Liu sold the 2016 Porsche Cayenne outside of Canada in May 2017," Carver wrote. "This concludes our involvement in the matter."

None of the claims have been proven in court.

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