By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
It has been announced on 19 October that the French Anti-Corruption Body, ‘Parquet National Financier’ (PNF), is looking into the role played by Motor Sports’ World Governing Body, the FIA (Federation International de Motor Sport), which is based in Paris, in the takeover of Formula One (F1), earlier this year, by US-based Liberty Media.
The FIA acted as an arbitrator in the sale of F1 and gave the ‘green light’ for the sale to go ahead to Liberty Media, whilst, at the same time, being a shareholder of F1.
In fact, the FIA was given an option by the previous owners, CVC, to buy a 1% stake in F1 in 2013 when the latest ‘Concorde Agreement’ was negotiated by the FIA with the F1 teams.
The suggestion, therefore, is that there was a potential conflict of interests on the part of the FIA in acting in this particular role and approving the sale of F1 to the new owners, Liberty Media.
At first sight, this might appear to be the case and that is why the PNF is investigating the matter.
For its part, the FIA denies any wrongdoing and offers its cooperation in the strongest possible terms as follows:
“We are entirely confident that any investigation would find that the FIA has acted appropriately at all times, and we stand ready and willing to cooperate with any enquiries should any investigation be commenced or clarification sought by the appropriate authorities.”
It may be noted that there is a parallel investigation proceeding by the PNF’s UK counterpart, the Serious Fraud Office, into the involvement of the FIA in the sale of F1, but no conclusions or evidence of any wrongdoing has emerged so far from this investigation.
So, we will see what actually happens with the British and the French investigations, but, one might observe that, as the old saying has it, ‘there is no smoke without fire!’
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’