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$8 billion motorsport sale investigated by French authorities

Mercedes's pit-crew changes the tyres of British driver Lewis Hamilton's car during the second practice session of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix night race on September 15, 2017.
MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP / Getty Images
Mercedes's pit-crew changes the tyres of British driver Lewis Hamilton's car during the second practice session of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix night race on September 15, 2017.

French anti-corruption authorities are investigating Formula 1's governing body over Liberty Media's acquisition of the motor sport.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Parquet National Financier wants to establish if the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) approved the sale of the sport to Liberty while holding a stake at the same time.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office is already investigating the January 2017 sale.

The deal was worth a reported $4.4 billion, rising to $8 billion once debt was accounted for. The FIA took a 1 percent stake in the sport in 2013 but denied in a statement that this placed it in any conflict of interest.

"We are entirely confident that any investigation would find that the FIA has acted appropriately at all times, and we stand ready and willing to cooperate with any enquiries should any investigation be commenced or clarification sought by the appropriate authorities," the governing body said.

In an email Thursday, Christian Sylt, editor of F1 industry monitor Formula Money, explained why authorities are reviewing the deal.

"The FIA bought the stake in 2013 for $500,000 even though it had a market value of $70 million.

"The stake could only be cashed in when F1's controlling shareholder, CVC Capital, sold its shares and this required the FIA's approval which has fuelled the claim that there was a conflict of interest," Sylt added.

It was also revealed Thursday that consultancy firm Deloitte produced a report last year recommending that Formula 1's governing body introduce a whistleblowing system to help prevent corruption.

At the time of publication, neither Liberty Media nor the FIA had responded to a request for comment.

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