JULY 4, 2007

Formula 1 and "search warrants"

Ferrari yesterday put out a statement that said that "legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued" concerning a McLaren engineer. The statement went on to say that this had produced a positive outcome".

A McLaren statement had previously said that a senior member of McLaren's technical organisation had been "subject of a Ferrari investigation regarding the receipt of technical information" and that McLaren learnt that the individual had received a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April and added that the employee had been suspended, pending "a full and proper investigation".

In order for a normal search warrant to be issued a police officer must present his evidence to a judge. He or she will then decide whether to grant the request for a search. This is normally based on geographic location so in order to establish more details about a search one needs to know where the target lives. As most people live close to where they work, we contacted the Surrey police asking for information of search warrants that may have been involved the case. The police explained that they had no knowledge of any such allegations and had not been informed of any searches in their area.

The same was true of the Thames Valley and Hampshire constabularies and London's Metropolitan Police and even the nationwide Serious Fraud Office.

None of these police agencies had any knowledge of any search warrant.

The only logical explanation of this is that the entire matter is being dealt with as a civil matter and that the search mentioned by McLaren was indeed "a Ferrari investigation" and had been conducted for Ferrari by private investigators. In this case a search of a house can only be carried out if the owner of the house agrees to allow the search. There is no reason why anyone would agree to this if they were guilty. However pressure can always be applied on an employee by an employer.

This suggest therefore that Ferrari may have approached McLaren directly and presented evidence that convinced McLaren that it was necessary to search an employee's house.

If the police are not involved then it is up to the parties involved to decide on the best course of action. There may end up being an amicable settlement between the teams rather than the whole thing being dragged through the courts.

It seems that Ferrari has named the McLaren employee in its legal actions in Italy and thus he will face prosecution there but as the British authorities are not involved there is no reason to start a criminal action in Britain.