A1 Grand Prix race firm faces fraud inquiry
It is almost two years since the event billed as the "World Cup of Motor Racing" ran out of money, cancelling a key race on Australia's Gold Coast and calling in the administrators to its UK operating company.
|A1GP at Brands Hatch in 2009|
Within the past three months, top fraud investigators have now become interested in A1 Grand Prix Operations, which is in administration with debts of £100m, and A1 Holdings, which is in compulsory liquidation with creditors claiming more than £300m.
These two companies behind the series are linked to Tony Teixeira, the South African diamonds entrepreneur, who had promised to revive the racing event's fortunes as chairman of the A1 Grand Prix Series. They now owe money to a number of national motor racing teams and the Australian government.
Investigators are looking into the companies' accounting and how they claimed to have raised financing, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
|A1GP boss Tony Teixeira drove A1GP to bankruptcy|
A1 Grand Prix Operations, containing 20 racing cars powered by Ferrari engines, went into administration in June 2009. The series was set up so that national teams could turn up and drive, using A1 Grand Prix's cars that it shipped all over the world.
As late as autumn 2009, Mr. Teixeira had personally promised Australian sports minister Phil Reeves that 18 to 20 teams would be turning up to race in a flagship Gold Coast event within three weeks on October 25. He also promised that €500m was about to be injected into the group of companies – which never materialized – and insisted that the administration of A1 Grand Prix Operations would not affect the event.
At this point, the cars were still impounded in an aircraft hangar in Oxfordshire, where Top Gear is filmed.
The Australian government, which part-financed the series, has since admitted to being deeply embarrassed when A1 Grand Prix failed to turn up. Mr. Teixeira, a director of the company, took over A1 Grand Prix in 2007, backed by £200m from RAB Capital – which has since written down its entire investment.
The competition was originally backed by Sheikh Maktoum of Dubai, but he sold out and was no longer involved in the company at the time of its failure.
The collapse also brought down an AIM-listed mining company, Energem, linked to Mr. Teixeira, which had lent the A1 companies $54m for services.
There are currently 15 unsatisfied county court judgments for financial claims against A1 Grand Prix Operations. There are two against A1 Holdings, plus a US court order for it to pay $4.5m to the US A1 Grand Prix racing team.
In an ironic twist, a new website promised to resurrect the A1 series under the new name of A10 Grand Prix by autumn 2011. It is not known whether the backers of A10 are in any way linked to the men behind A1.
The administrator of A1 Grand Prix Operations and the SFO declined to comment. Mr. Teixeira could not be reached for comment. The Telegraph