Judge puts brakes on pursuit of lost Porsches

Judge puts brakes on pursuit of lost Porsches

A FORMER international racing driver's multimillion-dollar damages action - mostly to recover three classic Porsche cars - has failed, with a judge dismissing each of his claims.

Retired Melbourne managing director James Rolfe alleged Investec Bank (Australia) was responsible for his seven shipping containers he said held the cars, valuable parts and personal items.

James Rolfe: claims dismissed.

James Rolfe: claims dismissed.

Photo: Jason South

Mr Rolfe, who had owned a Yarraville container business, claimed Investec took possession of the containers when it seized the land in 2003 to help recover an $11.8 million loan to his company.

The County Court heard in 2012 Mr Rolfe had raced Porsches at international and Australian rallies.

His transport logistics company, started in the early 1970s, allowed him to assemble a collection that included a 924 Carrera GTS, a 911 rally car - once just one in Australia of 50 worldwide - and a 924 GTR.


But the assets of companies Mr Rolfe controlled were seized and sold, including two properties in Port Douglas, the Verandahs and the Boathouse. (A judge in 2007 awarded him $2.7 million damages against Investec for its sale method that undervalued the properties.)

But not the three Porsches, or the thousands of ''very special'' nuts and bolts - many titanium - and hand-polished parts Mr Rolfe said he stored in the containers.

He claimed Investec took possession of the containers when it seized the land and so had a responsibility to care for and protect them.

Investec and co-defendants to the action, Gadens Lawyers and real estate agent Sutherland Farrelly, denied liability.

In her recent decision, Judge Kathryn Kings said she accepted the evidence of a Gadens' solicitor that there was no conversation with Mr Rolfe or agreement that allowed him to store the containers on site.

She said Mr Rolfe's evidence was ''confused, uncertain, inconsistent and unreliable''.

Judge Kings found Investec did not know or consent to him storing the containers at the premises and dismissed his claims of negligence and misleading and deceptive conduct.

Judge Kings accepted that Mr Rolfe owned containers and stored them at the premises and that the vehicles existed and were stored there ''at some point''. But he gave inconsistent evidence about ownership of the cars and parts and there was no written documentation to support his claim he had paid for them, she said.

''I am not satisfied that Mr Rolfe has discharged the onus to prove ownership of the vehicles,'' Judge Kings said.

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