British Columbia

The lost and the furious: UBC grad's prized BMW supercar goes missing en route to China

Da Bei Li hasn't seen his BMW i8 since 2015. A B.C. Supreme Court judge has held two Richmond businessmen liable for the loss of the supercar.

B.C. judge holds 2 businessmen liable for 'bad faith' dealings in plan to get car through customs

Da Bei Li's mother bought him a hybrid BMW i8 to celebrate his graduation from UBC in 2015. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

When Da Bei Li graduated from UBC four years ago, his mother celebrated by buying him a $183,780 supercar.

But Li, who also goes by David, planned to return home to Beijing as soon as his classes were finished, and he quickly arranged to have his new BMW i8 shipped to China at a cost of another $145,289.

What happened next isn't entirely clear.

The end result, on the other hand, is apparent: "Mr. Li has not seen the i8 since March 2015, and remains out of pocket," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker wrote in a judgment this week.

On Wednesday, Baker said Li must be repaid for the value of the missing car and the expenses he'd paid and held two Richmond businessmen liable for those amounts.

'Misunderstandings, questionable transfers and bad faith'

Baker's judgment attempts to make sense of "a dense web of corporate and personal dealings" between the people entrusted with bringing Li's car to China, and the "misunderstandings, questionable transfers, and bad faith," that led to the current state of affairs.

"These parties dealt with each other with little or no regard for the corporate personalities in play at any point in time and without troubling themselves with legal niceties such as the legal ownership of the i8," Baker wrote.

The sequence of events goes something like this: Li worked up an agreement on Feb. 23, 2015 with a man named Harry Piao, who runs a company called Top Car Seller in Richmond. Piao agreed to pick up Li's supercar, transport it to China, and take it through the customs process, according to the judgment.

But Piao did not have the expertise to do any of this, according to the judge, and he had to bring in outside help.

Unfortunately, "he did not choose such assistance wisely," Baker said.

Li's car arrived at the Tianjin port in May 2015. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

Piao turned to a businessman he knew named Qun Wang, who runs a company called Maxblue Enterprises. Wang agreed that he would take the car through customs for a fee of about $42,546, according to the judgment.

When the car arrived at the Tianjin port that May, Wang insisted his own cousin should be named as the legal receiver, rather than Li's mother.

"The significance of this change was that Mr. Wang and [his cousin] had total control of the i8 once it arrived in Tianjin," Baker wrote.

"As Mr. Wang stated to Mr. Piao in a text message on July 22, 2015, 'legally speaking, the vehicle is under my name now.'"

Wang said he'd need another $140,000 to get the car through customs — money Piao didn't have.

After a series of unsuccessful negotiations, Piao demanded that Wang return the car to him, along with the money he'd already paid. Wang refused, saying he wouldn't return the i8 unless Piao settled up a completely unrelated business dispute.

No evidence of car's current location

By October 2015, Li still had no information about the whereabouts of his car, and he filed suit against Piao and his business. Wang, his relatives and his related companies were later brought in as third parties.

"I received no direct evidence of the location of the i8 at the time of trial, only hearsay evidence from Mr. Wang that the i8 was in a storage warehouse in Tianjin ... I do not find Mr. Wang to be a credible witness and do not accept his hearsay evidence to be credible," Baker wrote.

The judge said Piao and Top Car were jointly liable for the amount Li had paid to have the car shipped to China, and issued a tracing order for those funds. Piao, Top Car and Wang were all liable for the value of the car.

The total amount owing is $338,069.

Baker also said Wang must reimburse Piao for what he paid to handle the customs process.

Costs in the matter have yet to be determined.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay has more than a decade of experience in B.C. journalism, with a focus on the courts, health and social justice issues. She has also reported on human rights and crimes against humanity in Cambodia. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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