MotoGP: Forward Racing Boss Arrested

07/16/2015 @ 4:06 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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The Forward Racing team faces an uncertain future. On his return from the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring, Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari was arrested by the Swiss authorities on charges of suspected corruption of a public official, and money laundering through sponsorship activities.

Cuzari remains under arrest, and is expected to face a hearing on Friday or Saturday. That hearing will determine whether Cuzari will be released, or will have to remain under arrest while the investigation continues.

At the heart of the case are allegations that the head of the Ticino tax inspectorate, Libero Galli, accepted bribes in return for special treatment by the Swiss tax authorities. Libero is charged with abuse of authority, passive corruption and improper application of fiscal regulations.

Galli is alleged to have received payments from Giovanni Cuzari in return for special treatment of sponsorship income of Media Action, the company owned and operated by Cuzari, which manages the sponsorship money of Forward Racing.

Both men have been arrested, and assets and bank accounts have been frozen, as the investigation continues.

Cuzari denies the charges, though he does not deny contact with Galli. According to the local paper Il Corriere Del Ticino, Cuzari claims only to have paid for a couple of lunches with Galli, a dinner at an event, and having invited Galli to a Grand Prix.

The regional police in charge of tax fraud have frozen a range of assets to allow them to investigate this thoroughly, and are searching for cash or other asset flows which indicate collusion between the two.

To that end, large amounts of documentation have been removed from the offices of both Media Action, Cuzari’s company, and the home of Galli.

Cuzari remains in detention, and will appear before magistrates either on Friday or Saturday, to determine whether he will remain in preventitive detention or be released while the investigation continues.

Even if Cuzari is released, that could cause problems for Forward, as the funds of the team have also been seized, and Cuzari is the only person authorized to dispense them. Without access to funds, the team will not be able to fly to Indianapolis and compete.

The news that Cuzari has been arrested has also caused a number of the team’s sponsors to reconsider their association with the team, putting further pressure on budgets.

According to Speedweek, the German language website run by the manager of Forward Racing’s MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl, neither riders, engineers, nor mechanics know yet if they will be heading to Indy in early August.

The news that Cuzari has been arrested does not come as a complete surprise within the paddock. Cuzari is no stranger to financial conflict, having been embroiled with chassis builder FTR early last year.

Cuzari denied having failed to pay FTR at the time, though he switched to using independent chassis designer Mark Taylor later that year. Riders, too, have complained of not being paid by the Forward Racing boss.

One rider would only comment off the record, saying that they were certain of being paid, but had taken recourse to legal action to ensure it.

Aleix Espargaro had also not received full payment for his year at Forward until a week before Mugello this year, Espargaro’s manager Albert Valera confirming to us that Cuzari had only paid the salary owed at the end of May.

A verbal agreement to pay Espargaro a bonus had not been honored, Valera added, though Cuzari was entitled not to pay it according to the letter of the contract between Espargaro and Forward Racing.

One of the conditions that Yamaha had set out for supplying Forward Racing with bikes for the Open class was that they would be paid in full in advance for the equipment.

Photo: © 2014 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Mormont

    I wonder if Colin Edwards is having a good laugh down in Texas tonight?

  • Piglet2010

    We could see either Bradl or Baz on the second Aprilia in Indy, since M. Laverty is currently riding for them on a race by race contract.

  • Mitchel Durnell

    Forward has my favorite umbrella girls. :(

  • XL2C

    It’s interesting that LCR/CWM is managing to continue despite the financial scandal surrounding CWM aka LCR’s title sponsor.

    Anyway, I just hope that none of the riders get caught up in this garbage. Some might think that Colin Edwards is free to laugh it up at a distance, but who knows what his relationship was with Forward/Cuzari on the business side of things. If Cuzari is guilty of using Foward’s sponsors to launder money, might he not have tried to entice his riders to take part of their salaries/earnings and invest in a “Sure Thing That Cannot Miss”?

    The kind of person that would launder money using their business and their sponsors’ business is the kind of person who would use anybody’s business to do the dirty.

    And it is odd for a team boss to promise/agree verbally to pay a rider a bonus! That alone is worthy of scrutiny because what were the terms that had to first be satisfied?

    Why make that sort of financial commitment with Aleix Espargaro without having at least the basics stated in writing? What does “…Cuzari was entitled not to pay it according to the letter of the contract between Espargaro and Forward Racing” even mean? That right there is the very definition of vague. And not only that, it is saying two different things at the same time. Cuzari verbally promised to pay…but there also exists a written contract that allows him to break his verbal promises? Who in his/her right mind would ever agree to that?

    One *wants* a paper trail when it comes to paying and being paid a large sum of money. I don’t think Cuzari promised Aleix a 2lb bag of Christmas cookies for his hard work, it had to be much more than that.

    Unbelievable. Not really, unfortunately.

  • My understanding is that the CWM cheque has already cleared the bank.

  • XL2C

    That’s good to know. Thanks.

  • John Walker

    And here I thought I could blissfully “hide” behind my favorite sport and pastime, from all the corruption that plagues the world today. Motogp was my one little refuge, my sacred cow, I could sit with alone in my man cave and escape.

    Now Motogp has the same issues I enjoyed staying away from.

    I hope Dorna cleans this up fast. Does Dorna even have an ethical standard required for teams and riders? Can this sport survive these blows from time to time and be OK or will corruption Dull the shine? What is the tolerance level with this?

  • John Walker

    Bradl could use a fresh change, maybe he is the one that can benefit from this

  • It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that money laundering was more prevalent in motorsport than we naively think.

  • XL2C

    As I posted a couple of weeks ago, for a team to trundle around the world knowing that it stands near zero chance of winning any races or any podiums throughout the year, going racing at the GP level has to be about something more than passion and lifestyle. The only thing that I could think of that would make it worth it was that the job paid well.

    Money is at the root of just about everything. Even surfing.

  • XL2C

    Hears hoping that Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz come out of this in a better position. And being a big Bradl fan, I couldn’t be more disappointed about these developments. Both riders deserve more than this.

  • John Walker

    Yup I see the pain in Bradl’s eyes when he has been interviewed lately. I remember when he led at Laguna for a few laps..

    He was a standout in Moto2, seems like talent going to waste

  • paulus

    How do you make a small fortune in motorsports… start with a big one! All International sports (motorsports or otherwise) are an opportunity to move, clean and legitimize cash…. all whilst living the high life. Good work if you can get it :)

  • John Walker

    How is this done? Moving cash, give me a scenario, so I can figure it out

  • Are you asking how to launder money?

  • XL2C

    Ha ha ha!

  • XL2C

    That’s priceless. ;-)

  • Belga Dear

    Sadness. I’ve always liked Bradl’s style and was impressed with Baz’s progress. I also liked that Forward went with Yamaha whilst everyone else stayed safe with Honda (how did that work out?). I hope the riders and the ‘customer’ Yamaha are able to find greener pastures (blacker asphalt?) in the future.