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.