Luxury Group I car

Porsche Cayenne Diesel Platinum Edition SUV.Source: Porsche

Porsche Cayenne Diesel Platinum Edition SUV.

A luxury car exporter's nearly two-year legal battle to recover a Porsche Cayenne and $120, 786 seized by United States authorities has ended with federal prosecutors in South Carolina agreeing to return the property and drop a civil forfeiture lawsuit.

The deal with the exporter, Alibek Turkayev, follows at least a dozen other similar settlements. In nine states, federal prosecutors have reached agreements with other small companies involved in buying luxury cars in the United States and reselling them overseas, mainly in China, for a big profit.

In many of those cases, federal authorities in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Ohio settled the disputes by returning all of the seized cars. In one of the bigger settlements, federal prosecutors in South Carolina agreed in January to return 57 luxury cars and hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hong Chen and his Mayrock Group, which is based in Virginia.

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The wave of settlements signals a retreat by federal prosecutors in a campaign against a niche business that seeks to exploit the demand for high-end vehicles in China, where cars that typically retail for $55, 000 in the United States can be resold for as much as three times that price.

American export companies were reselling tens of thousands of luxury cars a year to buyers in China and other countries before federal authorities began filing the civil forfeiture lawsuits in 2013 that brought much of the activity to a halt.

The crackdown was driven largely by agents with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, who questioned whether these small export companies were violating federal law by using straw buyers — people paid small sums to buy cars — to conceal that the vehicles were being bought by people who had no intention of keeping them and were using cash from other people to make the acquisitions. Federal authorities have argued that using straw buyers is a deceptive practice that potentially deprives American consumers of a chance to buy the luxury cars and limits the ability of automakers to keep tight control over sales to domestic dealers and to foreign countries.

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