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Analysis: Ferrari see Coughlan in court

Ferrari are seeking a search order for a computer 'in possession of a third party', which has been used by McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan, it has emerged today.

It is believed Ferrari's request relates to Coughlan's workstation at McLaren, although the specific details of Ferrari's application were not made public.

The hearing at Court 59 in London's High Court today followed up on a search order granted by the court last week, with the judge consenting to transfer to Ferrari the material recovered during that search.

The search at Coughlan's house recovered two computer discs, which are said to include 780 confidential pages with technical information belonging to Ferrari.

These discs have since been held by an independent supervising solicitor appointed by the court, but today Ferrari requested these discs will be transferred to them, and with no objection from Coughlan's lawyer, the right honourable Judge Briggs has consented.

Another request made in today's application relates to permitting Ferrari to hand over the information and material so far gathered under the court order to the Italian legal authorities, where a criminal investigation is held against ex-Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney.

Ferrari are bound by the court to keep all information tied to the case in confidence and may not transfer the information to anyone, including the Modena district attorney or the FIA, without the court's permission.

Judge Briggs is set to hear Ferrari's arguments tomorrow and could make a decision then.

But tomorrow's session, at 10:30am, will primarily centre around Mike Coughlan's affidavit - or lack of it.

Coughlan was ordered by the court to provide an affidavit detailing his involvement in this case and how he came in possession of Ferrari's documents.

But his attorney asked today for a continuance, saying it is yet unclear whether or not Coughlan's affidavit could be self-incriminating and used against him in criminal proceedings in Italy.

Coughlan is not named as a defendant in the Modenese court case, while the London case is a civil one.

His lawyer explained that they are still waiting for clarification regarding the Italian law, apparently concerned that Coughlan's affidavit could then be used to bring criminal charges against him in Italy.

Ferrari's lawyers, however, argued that Coughlan, who so far co-operated with the court-ordered search and subsequent investigation, has already waived any privilege against self-incrimination.

The court adjourned the debate until tomorrow, at which time Coughlan either provides an affidavit, or the two sides argue whether or not he can claim privilege. Coughlan's lawyer must, however, inform Ferrari's lawyers this afternoon what he decides to do, to allow them to prepare for tomorrow's hearing.

If Coughlan decides to argue privilege, it will be down to Judge Briggs to decide whether to accept this or not, and that decision may not necessarily be made immediately tomorrow.

Ferrari's lawyers emphasized the importance of such affidavit, stating there are a few crucial questions that remain unanswered or unclear.

Firstly, they pointed to a discrepancy in the dates of the events. According to the evidence gathered from the photocopying agency, which tipped Ferrari off to begin with, the documents were copied, scanned or printed on or around the 2nd or 3rd of May.

McLaren's statement last week said Coughlan obtained Ferrari's documents at the end of April, and Ferrari are not satisfied with the explanations so far provided to them by Coughlan on how exactly he obtained these documents and what he did with them thereafter.

Furthermore, Ferrari want to know when exactly Coughlan told McLaren team manager Jonathan Neale about these documents - although the Italians made it clear they are not taking legal action against Neale himself.

All the while, Coughlan himself sat at the back row of Court 59 looking despondent and perhaps overwhelmed. His affidavit, should he end up submitting it, will no doubt shed light on this entire affair. But that affidavit too will not be made public, not just yet. And for now, at least where the media is concerned, Coughlan maintains his silence.

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