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JULY 3, 2003

The police arrive at BAR

French police descended on the British American Racing pit on Thursday evening and there followed frantic negotiation between the team, the police and FOM's Pasquale Latteneddu over what appeared to be an attempt by the police to seize the three BAR-Honda cars.

The attempt by the police to seize the cars is part on the ongoing dispute between British American Racing and Partnership Production Group International (PPGI) which dates back to 1998 when France Corbeil, a Canadian television producer, negotiated a deal on behalf of PPGI with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to acquire and exploit all inactive F1 TV rights in Asia. As an extension of that deal, PPGI agreed to help BAR find sponsorship and negotiated a five-year deal with Teleglobe.

This was signed in January 1999 with Teleglobe becoming the major secondary sponsor of the team. The deal was worth an estimated $12m a year and the commission on the deal claimed by Corbeil is around $3.2m. There seems to be considerable circumstantial evidence to suggest that a deal was done but no actual contract was ever signed.

Some weeks before the Monaco GP Corbeil tried and failed to get a court order to seize BAR equipment at the event. Philippe Narmino, the president of Monaco's Court of First Instance, wanted more evidence and Corbeil went back to him in the week before the event and was granted an order which allowed a huissier (the French equivalent of a bailiff) to take control of the machinery. This was attempted on Sunday night at Monaco but BAR staff refused to hand over the cars. The team left Monaco and it was alleged that as a result might face charges for the French equivalent of contempt of court.