A fairly plain, vintage Kingswood ute has found its way into a French-Australian diplomatic dilemma — and just 20 grams of cannabis is to blame.
At the centre of the controversy is Travis McKimmie, an Australian Holden-lover now living in London.
“Through Facebook I came across a guy who was living in Holland and he had two Holden utes that had been imported from New Zealand about 12 years ago,” Mr McKimmie said.
“They were left in a warehouse in Holland and the warehouse was getting sold so the guy said to me that if I could get one of the utes back to the United Kingdom it was mine.”
Mr McKimmie travelled to The Netherlands to have a look at the 1971 HG Kingswood and agreed to a deal with the owner.
He then organised a driver to transport the car to his home in London via Belgium and France.
It was at the French border that the trouble started.
“They pulled the driver aside and the dogs started sniffing around the vehicle,” Mr McKimmie said.
“They made him unload the vehicle and said it had drugs in it.”
Originally built in New Zealand, the ute spent the past 12 years in the Netherlands before beginning its journey to London. (Supplied: Travis McKimmie)
Collector’s item or drug trafficker’s dream?
The customs officers found a small parcel with 20 grams of cannabis inside which the driver said looked as though it had been there “for years”.
“French customs seem to think the ute was going to be used for drug trafficking, which is just an absolute joke,” Mr McKimmie said.
“It was such a small amount, obviously just for personal use, and someone had chucked it in the back.
“If it had been 5 kilograms or 10kg or even 2kg of weed I would have no argument. But a small bag of weed. It’s just ridiculous.
“I had no idea about the weed and I would have happily paid the fine and be done with it.”
The classic car, now stranded in a storage facility at Calais, could be used for drug trafficking “educational purposes”. (Supplied: Travis McKimmie)
But according to French authorities the drugs were not the only problem.
Mr McKimmie said the customs officials believed compartments in the vehicle, which are factory standard, are ideal for drug smuggling and could be used for that in the future.
As a result the embattled ute has been impounded in France and will be used for “educational purposes” — an example of the kinds of vehicles used to traffic drugs.
Meanwhile, Mr McKimmie still does not know whether he will ever get his hands on this collector’s item.
The limbo continues
“I don’t really know what’s next. I’ve sort of hit a bit of a brick wall,” Mr McKimmie said.
“I’m hoping there’s someone out there that can help me.”
The Australian High Commission in London is refusing to help Mr McKimmie with his case, saying it can only lend assistance if it becomes a criminal matter.
“I have been threatened by French customs that I will face up to 10 years imprisonment. But only if I was actually arrested would the High Commission be able help me,” Mr McKimmie said.
“It has just snowballed a bit.
“It should have just been brought back to the UK and be done with. Instead, it has turned into an absolute nightmare.
“They see my ute and they don’t realise — to them it just looks like some old banger — but to me it means something.”
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