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Friday, February 19, 2010

Belgian Ferrari Dealer Wants Ohio Title To Rare Roadster Stolen In Cincinnati: Paid $625,000, But Ownership Disputed

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The car is one of only six ever made and is overseas. It was last raced in Cuba before Castro came to power. Belgian Jack Swaters, who restores classic race cars in Europe, contends the heirs of a Cincinnati collector refuse to give him sole ownership. So far, nothing in the corporate media about the intercontinental legal battle being waged right here. In 1990, Swaters bought the burned out chassis of a rare Ferrari model 375 Plus Grand Prix Roadster, serial No. 0384AM. He got it from a trader in Belgium. But the car had been reported stolen by Karl Kleve, a eccentric Cincinnati junk collector who died in 2003. Kleve, an engineer who helped build the first atomic bomb in World War II, had at least 300 cars, a B-29 bomber fuselage, boats, piles of oil cans, and stacks of $10 and $20 bills scattered on his property. This was reported by the Enquirer in years past. Green Township officials fought a 14-year battle to declare it all a nuisance. They won.

But the fight over the Ferrari that vanished in Cincinnati and turned up in Europe goes on and on. The latest chapter started last Friday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court when Swaters and his daughter sought a restraing order and injunction over the Ferrari's ownership. The breach of contract case is pending before Judge Norbert Nadel. So far, the heirs have not filed an answer to the complaint. Phillipe Lancksweert, a friend and business associate of Swaters in Europe, has filed an affidavit in the court case contending he paid $625,000 in 1999 to settle competing ownership claims:

"In 1994, I invested in the vehicle as an equal partner with Swaters. A few years later we learned of an owernship claims by Karl Kleve. Although Swaters purchased the vehicle in damaged condition, it retained an extremely high value as a collector's item because only six were ever made by Ferrari. The more complete the veicle, the higher the value and hence, the value of the parts at issue."

Lacksweert said he sold his share of the car back to Swaters in 2004. He said the parts in Ohio include the original VIN plate. Swaters' daughter, Florence, says in an affidavit that there are Ferrari parts in Ohio with Kleve's heirs that should be in Europe:

". . . including, but not limited to, the VIN data plate, fuel tank, engine cover, steering wheel, wheel supports, three wheels, on rear wing, and five instruments . . . The fact that parts to the vehicle are or may be circulating in the market has greatly affected the value of the vehicle . . . But more importantly, claims regarding the ownership of the vehicle and parts have greatly affected not only the alue of the vehicle, but also the reputation on the Swaters."

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