Force India boss, Mallya, in legal row

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Force India have been in the press today commenting on their ability to continue funding the team and keeping paychecks flowing etc. The news comes on the heels of Sauber’s payroll issues and the media have asked about Force India’s viability.

It’s understandable to a point as Force India and Sauber were at the heart of a complaint to eh EU over unfair business practices via the Formula 1 prize money distribution ratios. The EU has not rendered a verdict but Force India has been no stranger to financial concerns given one of the sponsors, Sahara, has an owner incarcerated and even team boss Vijay Mallya is now facing allegations himself that he is on the run fro Indian authorities. Reuters reported:

“Mallya, under pressure from banks to repay $1.4 billion owed by his collapsed Kingfisher Airlines, left India for Britain on March 2. His departure sparked outrage in parliament, after creditors had asked courts to ensure he stayed in the country.

A senior official from the Enforcement Directorate, said last week that Mallya had been summoned for questioning this Friday as part of an investigation related to one of the bank loans.”

Perhaps the key sign will be if Mallya travels back to India after this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix which collides with the date India authorities have called for Mallya’s appearance in court.

It does make me wonder why Force India may not have gone further down the road to possibly selling the team to Aston Martin but I doubt the manufacturer was willing to pay the asking price.

The team is receiving a hefty payout from Formula 1’s prize money for their terrific performance in the constructor’s championship last year finishing fifth which is the best the team has ever done in F1.

So do we have a F1 team boss on the run from authorities? The Reuters piece says that Mallya accuses all of this as a media witch hunt. A recent story at the Indian Express says that a newspaper said they had interviewed Mallya via an email address but now the Force India boss has filed a complaint in Mumbai saying that the email account is not his and could have been used by an impersonator:

“I have not given any email or any other interview to anyone including the Sunday Guardian. The email account that has been attributed to me does not belong to me. Every comment, therefore, is fabricated. I have filed a complaint with the Cyber Police Station in Mumbai.” The editor of the paper has also publicly admitted on Twitter that he would investigate the matter as this tantamounts to fraud and needs to be seriously investigated…’

A Daily Mail article quotes team deputy, Bob Fernley, as saying that Mallya intends to comply with the Indian legal system and interestingly adds this tidbit:

“That means Mallya will travel to Mumbai from Tewin, Herts, where he lives in a £11.5m house built by Anthony Hamilton, father of driver Lewis.

It is understood that investigators may look into Mallya’s Formula One involvement, which raises doubts about Force India’s future, not least given that the team’s other major shareholder, Subrata Roy, is in jail for financial impropriety.”

I’d say Anthony did pretty well for a father with a couch and a kid from Stevenage.

The drama in Force India has been present for some time and it’s a shame really because there are some really terrific people doing terrific work there on incredibly small budgets.  It would be nice to see serious resources put behind this team but I fear it is now an asset for both Sahara’s Subrata Roy and Vijay Mallya to be considered in their court proceedings.

I find it unlikely anyone will purchase Roy’s shares in the team for the price they would want and perhaps that’s the case for Mallya as well but that’s all speculation on my part. It seems like the few times I am writing about F1 and India (whether it be the race that no longer exists there or teams and sponsors), the stories are ripe with corruption and fraud.

It would be nice to write about an Indian team that wasn’t embroiled in failed businesses leaving many on the hook or a race that is thriving with a great circuit and terrific fans. Let’s hope that day comes sooner than later.

 

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Andrew_W

I have always been a Force India fan. And I think they will do well this season. But how real of a possibility is it that the team will be sold to help pay the billion Vijay owes?

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