Italian police statement misunderstood

The Italian police never made the claims that led McLaren to consider involving Britain's Home Office in Formula One's spying affair, autosport.com has learned

Italian police statement misunderstood

Reports on Thursday suggested the Italian police have stated that evidence obtained in searches at McLaren this week prove senior team personnel were involved in industrial espionage against Ferrari.

Subsequently, McLaren on Friday heavily criticised these allegations, saying the Italian police couldn't have reached such a conclusion given that they did not yet examine the material seized in the searches.

A team spokesperson also added that "In the light of this type of publicity, which has apparently been generated by the Modena police ... we intend to contact the Home Office to convey our concerns regarding the conduct of the entire matter."

However, it appears this latest controversy is down to a misunderstanding of the Italian police's statement.

In fact, the statement - made by Italy's Postal and Communications Police - clearly says that the evidence obtained in the McLaren searches will be examined by the Surrey Police along with Italian investigators in the next few days.

The statement does claim, though, that information already obtained by Italian investigators throughout this investigation - that is, prior to the searches at McLaren - have already given clear indication of McLaren's responsibilities in this case.

The statement says: "In the following days British detectives, with the collaboration of Postal and Communications Police investigators, will complete the inquest activities requested by the Italian Magistrate and will begin analysing the documents and the digital material mentioned above, with the aim of finding possible traces of the crimes concerned in the investigation.

"Such findings will be added to vast circumstantial and factual evidence already collected in the criminal investigation coordinated by the Modena Attorney, which shows clearly the responsibility of the management and some technicians at a high level in McLaren for the occurrence of 'industrial espionage' against team Ferrari, as well as for the matter of having taken advantage - both from a business and sporting level - of the data and information regarding both the design of the car that contested in the 2007 Formula One World Championship, and the race and qualifying strategies of the Italian team."

The statement details that 50 Surrey police detectives were involved in the searches on Wednesday - which took place at the McLaren factory and at the homes of team principal Ron Dennis, F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh, managing director Jonathan Neale, design team leader Rob Taylor and engineering director Paddy Lowe.

The information obtained included new testimonies on the use of email and telephone systems at McLaren, seized paper documents, electronic appliances and the copies of email systems.

Surrey Police have declined to give any further details on the information obtained in the searches or when the results of their searches will be handed over to Italian investigators.

A spokeswoman told autosport.com: "Surrey Police officers have conducted searches of McLaren headquarters in Woking and have searched the homes of five people in the investigations by Italian police in connection with allegations of industrial espionage in Formula One racing. Three of the five live in Surrey, the other two in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

"Surrey police officers are acting on a letter of request from the Italian authorities approved by the Home Office. The Surrey officers at the McLaren headquarters were accompanied by the senior investigating officers for the Italian police, Detective Chief Superintendent Dr Tommaso Niglio. Other Italian officers were in Surrey to advise and observe.

"The case is being overseen by the public prosecutor of Modena, Giuseppe Tibis. And the deputy chief of divisional investigation Sergio Mariotti.

"Due to ongoing investigations we will not be commenting further at this time."

Tibis himself emphasized today that his office would not have asked for the searches in the UK had there not been good reasons for it.

"If nothing is found then it's all good for McLaren," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "But if we have done the searches, it's because we had good reasons to do so."

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