Go beyond the headlines on cops and courts.
Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business.
Seattle collector has to ship antique roadster back to France
A Seattle man who collects rare cars has agreed to return to France a one-of-a-kind antique roadster that once belonged to a descendant of France's Louis XVI.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle man who collects rare cars has agreed a one-of-a-kind antique French roadster that once belonged to a descendant of French monarch Louis XVI will be returned to France, where it is designated a national treasure.
Charles Morse, 70, a retired entrepreneur who has owned the vehicle nearly four years, says he will ship the rare 1919 Turcat-Mery roadster to France to amicably resolve a seizure claim that ended up in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Morse will either keep the car in France or sell it to somebody who agrees to keep it in France, according to settlement documents released on Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.
The car — valued at nearly $1 million — was built just after the close of World War I for the Duc de Monpensier, a descendant of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon Dynasty, which reigned in France from the late 1500s to the mid-1800s. French officials say it was illegally exported from France.
According to filings in the case, the roadster was stored at the Castle of Randan, near Vichy in central France, and in 1991, the French government declared the property and everything stored there French historic monuments of public historic interest. French law forbids export of items classified as historic monuments.
Nonetheless, records indicate the vehicle changed hands several times since the 1990s. A seller of classic cars had it exported it to the Netherlands in 2004, and Morse acquired it the following year and had it shipped to Seattle.
French officials have been trying to get it back from Morse since last year. Last December, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a civil forfeiture complaint.
In the settlement, Morse admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to pay the costs of returning the vehicle to France, said his Bellevue attorney, David Vance Marshall, of Davis Wright Tremaine.
"It's been a complex case because it has involved multiple different matters to be resolved in order for this to work out," Marshall said Wednesday.
Morse stored the car at a privately owned museum facility in Kirkland. The vehicle had been shown at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California.
"Nobody was keeping anything a secret," Marshall said.
The settlement was reached without trial. The car is now in storage in a bonded warehouse at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, awaiting shipment to France, possibly as early as today, Marshall said.
He said Morse hopes to recoup at least some of the money he paid for the roadster.
If terms of the settlement are violated, Morse could face forfeiture of the vehicle or its value to the U.S. government, said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Charles E. Brown: 206-464-2206 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.