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South African tycoon sues over flash car

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A top South African businessman and former politician is suing DaimlerChrysler for saying he owns a super-luxury limousine, amid criticism the country's anti-apartheid icons have sold out to make millions.

Business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa said he was "embarrassed" by reports the carmaker had claimed he was one of four people in southern Africa to own the Maybach 62, one of the world's most expensive cars, with a 330,000 pound price tag.

"I drive a BMW and I felt embarrassed to be associated with a car that is worth millions (of rand)," Ramaphosa told reporters.

DaimlerChrysler declined to comment, but said the king of impoverished Swaziland was the only person in southern Africa to own the exclusive car, of which just 1,000 are made per year to order.

Critics say South Africa's drive to shift more of the country's economy into the hands of the black majority simply benefits a powerful elite, often with strong government ties, rather than making ordinary people richer.

Ramaphosa is one of the country's wealthiest men and holds stakes in a bunch of top blue chips, including Standard Bank, Millenium Consolidated Investments and entertainment holding firm Johnnic Holdings, which he also chairs.

Hugely popular, he is tipped as a possible successor to the presidency when Thabo Mbeki's term ends in 2009, and some South African media speculated the lawsuit might signal his imminent return to politics.

Ramaphosa's lawyer Barry Farber told Reuters the former trade unionist "was a principled man who did not aspire to that kind of luxury", and was suing the world's fifth biggest carmaker for 250,000 rand (22,000 pounds).

DaimlerChrysler was quoted in media reports in December as saying Ramaphosa owned a Maybach.
 
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