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Financial corruption investigators in France looking into FIA deal

NEWS STORY
18/10/2017

As the world looks to Austin and the possibility of the F1 titles being decided this weekend, it has been reported by the New York Times that French investigators are about to come after the sport as France's Parquet National Financier is looking into the FIA's alleged conflict of interest in the sale of F1 to Liberty Media.

The move follows the revelation that in Britain, the Serious Fraud Office is also looking into whether the transaction at the heart of the $8bn sale of the sport earlier this year breached the Bribery Act.

The moves are based on the fact that in setting up the latest Concorde Agreement in 2013, the FIA received a $5m payment and was also allowed to buy a 1 percent stake in the sport at a fraction of its market value. However, the 1 percent stake came with the caveat that it could not be cashed in by the FIA until F1's controlling shareholder CVC Capital Partners sold its shares in the sport.

With the FIA needing to give the green light to the sale to Liberty Media before it could go ahead, it is claimed that the sport's governing body had a conflict of interest in that it stood to benefit (greatly) from the sale as the 1 percent stake sold to it is now worth a rumoured $80m.

"We are entirely confident that any investigation would find that the FIA. has acted appropriately at all times," said the FIA in a statement earlier this year, when it first became clear the matter was being investigated, "and we stand ready and willing to cooperate with any enquiries should any investigation be commenced or clarification sought by the appropriate authorities."

However, as the Serious Fraud Office continues to look into the affair, the Parquet National Financier, which has investigated numerous allegations of corruption in sport, is also on the case.

"This is what they wanted in order for them to go along with it," Bernie Ecclestone told the New York Times' reporter, Tariq Panja. "A lot of things happen in business that if you look at it you can't understand why it is allowed to happen.

"Somebody said to me there's a problem," he added. "I think in the end people were part of it in France and they'll have a look at these things if they think it's wrong."

The "S.F.O.'s Intelligence Unit is following this issue very closely and reviewing materials pursuant to allegations of bribery and corruption," said David Green, director of the Serious Fraud Office, in a letter to Damian Collins MP who first brought the matter to his attention.

Having closely examined the Concorde Agreement, Collins tells Panja that he can find "no logical explanation" for the deal.

"The question is, does acting that way influence the decision that was made?" he added.

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1. Posted by mickl, 18/10/2017 22:31

"Wonder if Bernie will get his shares back if it all becomes null and void?"

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