Max Mosley is said to be taking legal action against one of Britain's leading tabloid newspapers for breach of privacy - after it printed a story about him allegedly being involved in a 'sado-masochistic orgy'.

The News of the World led its coverage on Sunday with a front page headline 'F1 boss Max Mosley has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers', claiming that the 67-year-old had paid ?2,500 for the five-hour experience, which is said to have taken place in a Chelsea apartment close to his London home.

Mosley, married to wife Jean since 1960 with two sons, has made no comment on the story - which, if proved to be true, could make his position as FIA president untenable - but he has been defended by friend and F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

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"I've known him an awful long time," Ecclestone told the Daily Mail. "If somebody had told me this without the evidence, I would have found it difficult to believe.

"Assuming it's all true, what people do privately is up to them. I don't honestly believe it affects the sport in any way.

"Knowing Max it might be all a bit of a joke. You know, it's one of those things where he's sort of taking the piss, rather than anything against Jewish people."

Mosley's late father, Oswald, was the founder of the pre-war British Union of Fascists in the 1930s and a friend of Adolf Hitler.

Jewish groups have expressed their disgust at the revelations.

"This is sick and depraved," Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told the Mail. "For anyone to be in such a position of influence and power beggars belief. I am absolutely appalled."

"As Mr Mosley has condemned the racism in motorsport he should live up to the standards he sets," added Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, speaking to ITV-F1.com. "This is an insult to millions of victims, survivors and their families. He should apologise. He should resign from the sport."

Whilst the Mail claims Mosley is taking legal action against the News of the World for breach of privacy, the FIA has refused to comment over the allegations.

"This is a matter between Mr Mosley and the paper in question," an FIA spokesman is quoted as having told international news agency Reuters. "We understand that Mr Mosley's lawyers are now in contact with that newspaper and the FIA has no comment."

Mosley has held the role of FIA president since 1993.