My reluctance to write anything about the challenges of getting the legal registration for the Defender was due to two things: fear and ignorance. First of all my lack of understanding of what was actually going on at any point led to a few mistakes and limited my ability to say anything intelligent (ignorance), and my gradually declining confidence that it was ever gong to lead to a positive outcome made me feel rather embarrassed(fear) . There were moments, indeed days, when I thought I had screwed up so badly that not only was our trip in jeopardy, but our ability to export the vehicle from Ghana at all, ever, was in serious doubt. I could have done fifteen blogs on this story, but they all would have been too depressing. Only now can I see the light end of a very long, multi-branched tunnel. I have used fictional names for many of the individuals in this story in order to spare anyone from embarrassment or other trouble.
We bought the Landy from someone named Gomez, to whom I was referred by Opere the Land Rover mechanic that runs the shop under the tree. I had put Opere to work to find us a fifteen year old Defender 110 that could be legally imported to Canada. (See separate post “We find our Defender”) I purchased the vehicle and obtained a bill of sale. Obviously I knew I would need to eventually register the vehicle, but that was not something that could be even contemplated at that point, first it had to be in a condition that was a) drivable and b) able to pass a basic safety check . It was a long way from satisfying those conditions a year ago.
After the first few months of mechanical and body restoration, when we got close to having a vehicle that would pass muster I asked Ruby, the admin person at the Canadian High Commission that deals with vehicles where I work what I had to do to register it. She asked if I had all “the papers”, and explained to me that “Form C” was of some importance. This is something that is signed between the seller and the buyer that contains certain specs on the vehicle, like make, model, year, and chassis number. No-one had offered that when I first bought the vehicle, and I was not keen on going back to see Gomez so when I was about to leave for our trip to Egypt last October I arranged for Opere to follow up with Gomez to get said Form C. When I came back Opere said he was having trouble with Gomez and that I should go see him myself to see what the problem was.
I called Gomez and learned at that point he was not the actual seller of the vehicle, but rather someone named “Andy”, his “brother”. Gomez said there was no problem, that he could get Addy to sign a Form C passing ownership to me. Laura and I went to see Gomez one Saturday, in his chair under the stairs at the front of a decrepit two-storey walk up retail/office building in Dansoman where we had bought the vehicle. He not only had a Form C signed by Addy and pictures of the gentleman, but the original of a letter sent from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the original owner, to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), attesting that Addy had indeed purchased the vehicle from them at auction and asking DVLA to transfer ownership. Said correspondence was dated March 2011, a month after I had purchased it from Addy, which struck me as a bit curious.
But finally after months of dead-ends, it appeared I was home free and could get the Landy licensed. At this point the brake lights were not working and these needed to be fixed before it would pass the safety so I did not pursue it until I got those fixed A few weeks ago I went to DVLA and entered another stage of the twisted path. I went to DVLA with Francis because I wanted a Ghanaian who knew how things worked and he knew someone there. This led to the two of us sitting in the office of a DVLA official, who we shall call Sam , watching him stamp other people’s forms and bark orders to staff. When he finally decided to give us the honour of his attention, he asked who had sold me the vehicle and if I knew him. The fact that I had the letter from EPA, pictures of Mr. Andy and a signed Form C did not impress him. He wanted to meet Mr. Andy before he would go any further. He lectured us about the risks of transferring vehicles that were stolen and said he did not have anything in his files about the sale of this vehicle. At one point he actually said that he if I did not like it I could go see his Director (who works in another location) or I could just return the vehicle to Mr. Andy and ask for my money back. Not an uplifting day.
By this point the prospect of throwing myself into the sewage laden surf on the rocks in the ocean off Accra has begun to look like a rather attractive option. I had by this time invested over ten grand in the vehicle but I had serious doubts this Andy fellow actually existed, a doubt no doubt shared by Mr. Alright. I was very suspicious that perhaps Gomez had stolen the vehicle and orchestrated a fictional vendor to clear himself of accountability. Would I be able to get someone to masquerade as Addy? Would I never be able to register the vehicle, and would I have to abandon it when we left Ghana?