Tall tales and fast cars add to mystery of LA Ferrari wipeout

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The Independent US

Sometimes it takes an Oscar-winning screenwriter to concoct a classic Los Angeles noir mystery, and sometimes such stories pop out of the clear blue, southern California sky.

It has been 10 days since Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish playboy businessman and co-founder of a now bankrupt high-tech company Gizmondo, walked away unscathed from a high-speed crash on the Pacific Coast Highway at Malibu. His million-dollar, limited-edition Ferrari was sliced in two by an electricity pole. The plot, meanwhile, hasn't stopped thickening.

First, Mr Eriksson told police he was a passenger, and that the driver - a German known to him only as Dietrich - had run off into a canyon, never to be seen again. That story seems to be breaking down fast, since blood likely to have come from Mr Eriksson's split lip, the only injury he sustained, was found on the driver's side of the car only.

Mr Eriksson's blood alcohol level, meanwhile, was found to be over the limit, as was his speed - estimated to have been more than 160mph at the point of impact. Was this, then, a routine drink-driving case, spiced up only by the unusually high speed of an unusually expensive car?

Not exactly. Next it appeared that the Ferrari had been racing a Mercedes SLR at the time of the crash. A second man interviewed by police claimed to have been a passenger in the Mercedes. But that story has also been discredited. "There was no Mercedes SLR," a police spokesman, Phil Brooks, told The Los Angeles Times. "Simply, there was a Ferrari with two people in it. One of these men was driving."

That "simply" may have been an over-optimistic assessment. Police also found an ammunition magazine for a Glock pistol near the crash site, which they are convinced is connected - although they do not know how.

Most mysterious of all are the two men who turned up minutes after the crash, claimed to be from "homeland security", talked their way past police lines by flashing badges, interviewed Mr Eriksson and left again. Nobody has a clue who they were. They are now being sought by police.

Mr Eriksson says he has an official governmental function in counter-terrorism - a remarkable twist for a man better known for loving parties and fast cars, whose company just collapsed under huge debt. In the first interview he gave to deputies at the scene, he said he was the deputy commissioner of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority's police anti-terrorism unit.

That story looks to be distinctly fishy, too. The San Gabriel Valley TA turns out to be a small private charity devoted to providing transport to disabled people in suburbs north-east of LA - nowhere near Malibu and nowhere near Mr Eriksson's mansion in Bel Air. It does not seem to have a police department, much less an anti-terrorism unit.

Someone from the agency told The Los Angeles Times, on condition of anonymity, that Mr Eriksson had been helping fit security cameras on its buses for the disabled. What this was supposed to have to do with thwarting deadly attacks on civilian targets is less than clear.

Mr Eriksson has refused to talk further with police, although he did agree last week to provide a blood sample.

His civil lawyer turns out to be the chairman of the San Gabriel Valley agency. It is not known if he has now hired a criminal lawyer as well. He has not been charged. The inquiry continues.

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