Financial scandal around Grand Prix deepens
18 November 2005
BRUSSELS — Revelations surfaced on Friday the Wallonian government was aware of a much-criticised expensive contract aimed at keeping the Formula One Grand Prix in Francorchamps.
The claims stem from a memo Wallonian Budget Minister Michel Daerden sent to government colleagues shortly before the contract was signed.
The memo warns against the high cost of the contract aimed at retaining the race and the one-sided nature of benefits afforded to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.
Francophone public broadcaster RTBF has gained insight into the memo, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Friday.
It is the latest in a series of problems around the Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix, following the financial problems of promoters.
The Wallonian government took over organising the event this year, but the money being pumped into the race is under fire at a time when the Wallonian economy is stagnating.
Socialist PS Senator Jean-Marie Happart has admitted signing the much-discussed contract without having read the text properly because it was in English. However, other key Wallonian ministers have denied any involvement.
And Wallonian ministers refused to comment on the fresh revelations on Thursday night, but green party Ecolo demanded a commission of inquiry be set up.
The Wallonian government is now examining under what conditions it is financially prepared to organise the Belgian F1.
Wallonian Premier Elio di Rupo said the regional government will inform the company that helps promote the Francorchamps circuit of its decision on Friday night.
The Wallonian government has dismissed Ecclestone’s proposals as being financially exaggerated and will make a counter proposal. The exact amount of the new proposal is not yet known.
If a deal is reached, a new contract will be drawn up with Formula One Management (FOM). Di Rupo said the Wallonian government will not give a financial guarantee.
“If that is demanded, there will be no Grand Prix,” he said.
The contract of October 2003 allegedly binds the Wallonian government to paying an annual EUR 14 million (indexed by 5 percent) up until 2010 to FOM if the Francorchamps Grand Prix is not held.
British courts would be instructed to issue a ruling in case of a conflict.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news