McLaren's Italian legal case near end
|By Jonathan Noble and Michele Lostia
||Friday, December 19th 2008, 18:13 GMT
Legal action relating to McLaren's 2007 spy case is close to being resolved following the latest developments in Italy.
Charges against ex-McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, and senior McLaren engineers Paddy Lowe, Jonathan Neale and Rob Taylor have now been dropped following a 'nolo contendere' (no contest) agreement between the respective lawyers representing them and the Modena district attorney.
In exchange for not contesting the charges of copyright infringement of Ferrari's data, the four men have agreed to pay sums of monies to the Italian authorities. Coughlan will pay 180,000 Euros, while the other three men will pay 150,000 Euros each.
A McLaren spokesman said: "This legal formalisation follows on from the successful resolution of last year's disagreements between McLaren and Ferrari."
It is understood that Lowe, Neale and Taylor's monies will be paid for by McLaren, while it is unknown whether or not former McLaren chief designer Coughlan will have to pay himself.
"Mike Coughlan no longer works for McLaren," added the McLaren spokesman. "That being the case, we feel it would be both inappropriate and discourteous for us to comment on his behalf."
With the action against McLaren staff having now been sorted, sources suggest that McLaren boss Ron Dennis and F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh expect to have all charges dropped at a hearing of Preliminary Investigations Judge Barbara Malvasi scheduled for next February.
The ending of legal action against McLaren comes after the Woking-based team and Ferrari settled their differences over the matter earlier this year.
A McLaren spokesman said both teams had moved on considerably since then and, with the legal process drawing to a conclusion satisfactory to all parties, all focus is now on the outfit working with Ferrari, the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) in improving the sport.
"As is well known, in simultaneous press releases issued as long ago as June 11 this year, McLaren and Ferrari have already publicly drawn a line under those disagreements," said the McLaren spokesman.
"Indeed, the two teams are now co-operating productively and cordially alongside each other within FOTA for the good of the future of Formula One.
"The FIA, too, long ago declared the controversies of last year closed. Indeed, during the course of the past 12 months, McLaren has been working closely with the FIA on cost-cutting plans, on environmental initiatives and on a concerted effort to rid motorsport of racism, namely the FIA's 'Every Race' campaign.
"We at McLaren therefore welcome this legal formalisation and conclusion in Italy, and feel confident that - in co-operation with FOTA, Ferrari, the other Formula One teams, all the Formula One manufacturers, FOM and the FIA - McLaren will play a key role in shaping the future of Formula One in the months and years ahead."