- A Lamborghini Espada, a rare, classic car, was stolen and sold for well under its true value
- The owner had no idea it was missing, even after it had been sold to a classic car collector
- Court finds buyer had no right to own the car and returns it to its original owner
A rare Lamborghini Espada, one of only 1,217 ever made, was stolen from a shed in rural New South Wales, and sold before the owner realised it was missing.
The Espada is a 4-seat grand touring coupe built between 1968 and 1978. It is a prized collector’s car.
Classic car enthusiast Charles Chelliah knew he had bagged a bargain when he bought the unregistered coupe from Kevin Lincoln on the NSW central coast for $32,500.
Court documents show that Chelliah had reservations about Lincoln, who told him he was an agent for the owner, but turned a blind eye and bought it anyway.
A model that has had a flat battery for 32 years went to auction earlier this year in the UK with an estimate price of $90,000 – $108,000.
But in June 2016, four months after he bought it, NSW Police told Chelliah the car was suspected of being stolen. He checked the Personal Property Securities Register and found that there was no security interest listed for the Espada, but still surrendered the car to the police.
The car actually belonged to Cheryl Hall, who inherited it from her husband Keith in his will after he died in 2015. Keith Hall was an avid fan of the grand touring coupe when he bought it in the 1970s.
It was stolen in February 2016 from their locked shed on Mitchells Island, about four hours north of Sydney.
Hall didn’t know the car had even been stolen, let alone sold on to another owner, so the matter was taken to a local court, where it was found that Hall was the rightful owner of the car.
The magistrate at the time not only told Chelliah he was not entitled to the car, but added he “did not act honestly and that he did not honestly or reasonably believe that the seller was entitled to sell the car on behalf of the owner“.
The magistrate also highlighted the “objectively suspicious circumstances” surrounding the transaction and noted that Chelliah was a “highly experienced individual in the purchasing and selling of classic cars”.
She said it could “not be readily accepted that a person of such experience would believe they were legitimately obtaining a car, supported by documents which were unconvincing”.
Chelliah appealed the decision in the NSW Supreme Court, but on Monday, Justice Peter Garling once again found Chelliah had no right to the vehicle.
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