Formula One: Damian Collins pledges to keep “a very close eye” on the initial SFO bribery probe

Oliver Gill
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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain
Damian Collins has been re-elected to the chair of the digital, culture, media and sports select committee (Source: Getty)

Ministers are ready to haul Formula One’s owners and regulator in front of an influential select committee after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) finishes an initial bribery probe into the sport.

The SFO has promised a “thorough examination” of agreements between Formula One and its governing body, the FIA.

The probe followed a tip-off in March from Damian Collins, the chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee.

Collins told City A.M. the committee will be keeping “a very close eye” on the SFO investigation. Of particular interest will be whether the SFO plans to open a more detailed review into the case.

He said:

If we reach a point where the SFO decide not to launch a full investigation, then the committee could look at it as well.

“That’s probably a decision we’ll take in the autumn and I think in the meantime it is probably right we give the SFO time to look at the issues we put in front of them. I know they have access to all the relevant documents relating to the deal.”

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Central to the SFO investigation is a £3.9m payment made by F1’s commercial arm to the FIA and whether such remuneration was in breach of bribery laws.

Regulatory role

The FIA previously said the payment was in return for undertaking its “regulatory role”. Both the FIA and F1 have previously denied any wrongdoing. The owners of Formula One have not responded to a request to comment further at the time of writing.

A spokesperson for the FIA said: "To the FIA’s knowledge, the serious fraud office has not launched any investigation concerning the FIA, however, the FIA would naturally be happy to cooperate with any competent authority that may make any request for information."

However, Collins said the payment “does throw up a lot of very challenging and difficult questions”.

He has previously queried why the payment would need to be made as part of the so-called 2013 Concorde Agreement. Such an accord dictates how the sport is governed.

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Collins said: "When I saw the documents and the agreements; I felt there were lots of questions that were raised about the sequences of events and the way in which decisions were being made. And that’s why I wrote to the SFO because I felt they should look at it properly to see if there had been a breach of the law.”

“I’ll be very interested to see what conclusions they will come to because they have the legal power and authority to investigate this and therefore to demand to see and secure other documents that may be relevant to their understanding of what went on.

As we’ve seen with Fifa and other bodies… the law is the law and if people think there has been a breach of the law that should be properly investigated.

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