The FIA's internal Ethics Committee has thrown out the concerns of British presidential candidate David Ward after he complained that rival – and present incumbent – Jean Todt had breached election rules by gaining support from automobile clubs in South America ahead of the agreed campaign period.
Ward, who is seeking to supplant Todt as president for the next four-year term, claims that the Frenchman 'jump started' the election race, in the process breaking rules that determine the fairness of the election. He subsequently made a formal complaint to the FIA's Ethics Committee regarding 'support letters' that emerged following a series of meetings Todt held in Latin America and Asia in early September.
Detailing his concerns on his official campaign website, Ward insists that 'the use of support letters well in advance of the presidential election period represents a serious breach of the FIA laws, rules and regulations', but the Ethics Committee, which met in Paris this week, saw fit to disagree, with Todt claiming that the widespread publication of these false allegations' allowed the findings of its discussion to be made public.
Despite two members of the original committee line-up – Briton Robert Jones and Brazilian Viviane Eleonora Monteiro, a personal friend of Todt's actress wife Michelle Yeoh – had decided to withdraw from their roles, and the head of the confederation being one of the signatories of a letter of support for Todt's candidacy, the board decided that 'nothing in what the [it] saw or heard gives any hint that any ethical regulation of the FIA has been breached by Mr Todt or any of the parties implicated'.
The committee also did not see any evidence of any kind supporting the allegation that people were coerced into signing the letters of support for Todt, claiming that, on the contrary, it had received numerous letters from individuals who attended the relevant meetings, albeit unsolicited, clearly showing that the letters of support were voluntary.
As a result, it saw no evidence of collusion of any kind by Todt or any of the parties implicated which would help to influence the results of the forthcoming election, pointing out that the 'Montevideo agreement' and 'Bangkok letter of support' were not binding on the clubs in any way – a fact admitted by Todt, who has 'acknowledged and asserted' that the presidential election will be decided by secret ballot.
The findings pointed out that Ward had asserted, several times, during the hearing that he was not suggesting any conspiracy or wrongdoing by Todt, and that his complaint had, instead, been about the FIA Statutes, in particular article 9.4, which requires a list of candidates to be provided including seven vice-presidents for sport. The committee questioned the decision to raise his point at this moment of the election process, as it is not their role to review such regulations.
Finding his options of naming a VP of sport from each region – as mandated by the election rules - limited by the written support given to Todt in Montevideo, Ward had branded the rules 'farcical' and producing an 'absurd situation in which just one club in North America may determine whether or not there can be a challenger to Jean Todt'.
The report concluded with criticism of Ward's decision to report the Frenchman's actions to them, claiming that he, as a 20-year FIA veteran who 'knows the legal framework very well' should also have known that it was inappropriate to challenge the regulations in such a way.
STOP PRESS: Ward has since issued his own response and has expressed his disappointment with the findings of the Ethics Committee [see separate story - HERE