The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating a 2013 deal which gave the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile $5 million U.S. and a one percent stake in Formula One, reports the BBC. The SFO wants to know if F1 and the FIA violated the Bribery Act with the payment.
The deal, where the FIA says they were paid for their regulatory role over F1, was made between the FIA, F1’s teams and F1's commercial commercial arm. A statement from the Formula One Group provided to Motorsport.com argued that the payment was necessary to provide a stable environment for F1 to flourish:
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.
However, not everyone is convinced that the FIA would need to be compensated for taking that regulatory role, including UK Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary select committee chairman Damian Collins. Collins asked the SFO to look into whether or not the payment was a violation of the Bribery Act.
The FIA’s stake in F1 has been under scrutiny since the series was sold to Liberty Media. The 2013 agreement prevented them from monetizing their 1 percent stake in F1 until it was sold, meaning that the FIA received a healthy profit from the sale of F1. However, an agreement the FIA made with the European Commission in 2001 prohibited them from having any commercial conflicts of interest in the series.