According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine’s online edition, the 2009 Mercedes GL 420, which retails for about €75,000, was originally driven by two businessmen in Baden-Württemberg who reported it stolen last year.
Suspicious police investigators later determined that the men were involved in smuggling cars to eastern Europe – including the Mercedes. They were sentenced to five and nine years in prison.
But despite the fact that the men didn’t actually own the SUV – it was technically the property of Mercedes, which had been leasing it to them – Ukrainian authorities seized the vehicle at the border and decided to keep it, Spiegel reported.
A court determined that the authorities didn’t have to send the SUV back to Germany, despite an Interpol alert, and it was eventually transferred to Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych, who has been using it ever since. Ukrainian law allows authorities to permanently seize cars stolen elsewhere if they come into the possession of authorities, Spiegel reported.
But some officials in Ukraine have said that the whole affair is shady and the car should be returned to Germany.
“This only underlines the fact that there exists a specific scheme for stealing automobiles and smuggling them into Ukraine, after which the ownership is transferred to the Ukrainian government through court decisions and later sold,” Ukrainian parliamentary deputy Valerii Konovaliuk told the Ukrainian News Agency
It’s not clear whether Lavrynovych will continue to drive the SUV.