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Spy row finally over as Italian authorities drop charges

The infamous spy row – which has rumbled on in Formula 1 since it exploded onto the scene mid-2007 – is finally now over, with news that the Italian authorities have dropped all charges against McLaren-Mercedes.

Legal action had been in place against the Woking-based concern's former chief designer Mike Coughlan and three current senior members of the team, in the wake of the espionage scandal provoked by the passing of a 780-page dossier containing confidential data to Coughlan by then Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney two years ago.

Whilst those proceedings have now been ended, all four men remain liable for fines, with Coughlan having to cough up £158,000 in return for not contesting charges of copyright infringement, the BBC reports. Engineers Paddy Lowe, Jonathan Neale and Rob Taylor – who are all still employed by McLaren – each face a penalty of £131,500.

McLaren were fined a sporting record $100 million two years ago for receipt of private information belonging to another team, and disqualified from the Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship.

“The proceedings in Italy were merely the officialising of what had been proposed long before, namely the 'nolo contendere' (no contest) agreement,” explained a spokesman for the multiple title-winning outfit. “A line has finally been drawn under this matter.”

Earlier this month, FIA President Max Mosley announced that both Stepney – who remains the subject of ongoing legal action in Italy initiated by Ferrari – and Coughlan, who was also once employed by the Scuderia, have both been effectively pardoned to work in motorsport again, even if he urged all F1 teams to approach the pair with extreme caution [see separate story – click here].

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