The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is set to open an investigation into an arrangement agreed between CVC Capital Partners (the then commercial rights-holders of Formula 1) and the sport’s governing body, the FIA.
London-based ITV News claims it has been shown a confidential copy of the ‘Concorde Implementation Agreement’ between Formula One Group and the FIA. The terms of the agreement are said to run until 2020.
Both the FIA and CVC (who sold their stake in F1 to Liberty for $8bn last year), have fervently denied any wrongdoing with the FIA going further to say that the $5m was "properly accounted for" and that "no individual received any payment out of this sum.”
While the actual numbers of the deal were not publicly disclosed, according to ITV News the FIA was granted a $5m (£4m) cash sum for entering into the agreement as well as a one-per-cent stake in Formula One for a nominal amount of $460,000 – well below the series’ apparent market value. On an $8bn sale valuation, that stake would be currently worth in excess of $80m!
When approached by Motorsport Week's sister title MotorSport Monday, an SFO spokesperson stated that: "The Serious Fraud Office is reviewing material in its possession in relation to these [the deal between CVC and the FIA] allegations. All matters referred to the SFO are assessed against criteria to establish whether they may fall within its remit to investigate. The SFO does not comment on the progress of such assessments.”
A spokesman for CVC said: "The agreement does not breach the Bribery Act, and any suggestion to the contrary can only be based on a misunderstanding of the facts and is false. We have recently confirmed this with our outside legal advisers.”
The now Liberty-controlled Formula One Group added: “The figures quoted, including the equity stake, were negotiated to ensure that the FIA could continue to provide and enforce a long-term regulatory framework, which provides safety and stability for the benefit for all key F1 stakeholders including teams, drivers, other partners and, of course, the F1 commercial rights holder itself.”