Max Mosley, whose role in a sado-masochistic sex orgy was exposed in a Sunday newspaper, was the victim of a sting operation by his enemies in the world of motorsport, senior figures in the industry have told The Independent.
The claim is that Mr Mosley's enemies wanted him ousted quickly from his position as unpaid head of the sport's regulatory body, the FIA.
Mr Mosley was in the process of imposing tighter rules on safety and fuel efficiency on Formula One cars. He was also seeking to give the FIA the power to ban powerful individuals from racing events if they were caught cheating.
The previous rules expired on 31 December last year and Mr Mosley was in the process of negotiating a new agreement when he was warned that he was being tailed by private investigators.
A senior figure, who has worked closely with Max Mosley, said he was "99 per cent certain" that the investigation and the News of the World's exposure of Mr Mosley's sex life were linked.
"It's just an extraordinary coincidence and it would have been tremendously convenient for a lot of people if Max had been ousted. In fact he wasn't, because the FIA stood by him but if he had been, it would have been a brilliant coup," he said
Mr Mosley is alleging invasion of privacy and defamation by the News of the World, in a civil case heard by a judge with no jury, which will have lasting repercussions for privacy law in Britain. Justice Eady is expected to deliver his findings today. If he finds against the News of the World, it is likely that Mr Mosley will sue the newspaper in French and Italian courts.
The case arises from a report on the front page and inside pages of the News of the World on 30 March, under the headline "F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers". Mr Mosley admitted paying five women to take part in what he called a "party" but denied it had a Nazi theme.
After the report appeared, Mr Mosley hired a surveillance team from the security firm Quest, led by the former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens, to find out who was behind the revelations. They discovered that one of the women, referred to in court as Woman E was the wife of an MI5 officer. She had secretly taped the activities in a Chelsea flat rented by Mr Mosley, and passed the tape to the News of the World, which paid her £12,000.
During the High Court hearing, Mr Mosley testified that he had been warned twice that he was being investigated. The first warning came at the end of January from the Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone. Mr Mosley said he had not taken it seriously until 26 February, when he had lunch with Lord Stevens, who told him: "You should be very careful because you are being investigated." Lord Stevens declined to comment yesterday.
Mr Mosley went ahead and arranged the "party" despite these warnings, after he had been shown by Lord Stevens's firm how to ensure no one had followed him to the flat where he had a rendezvous with the five women. "One thing I didn't take account of was that someone might attempt to blackmail or bribe the women," he said.
He added: "Either it was a complete coincidence and the News of the World stumbled on it, or the people who were investigating found out what was going on and, by one means or another, tipped off Woman E."
Motorsport is governed by the Concorde Agreement, which expired on 31 December, plunging the FIA into a tough negotiating round with all the interests involved. Mr Mosley is possibly the world's greatest authority on the agreement, having acted as barrister for the industry in drawing up the original agreement in La Place de la Concorde, Paris, 27 years ago.
Since then he has been a "poacher turned gamekeeper", who has insisted on strict regulations in every branch of motorsport, from go-karting to Formula One. Had he been removed from office, the FIA would have crippled at a time when powerful interests were battling over revisions to the agreement. The FIA would have had to look for an interim chairman to step in, unpaid, for a year until an election was due.
Mr Mosley has considerable inherited wealth. He has been an unpaid chairman of the FIA since 1993, as well as funding a sexual habit that reputedly cost him £75,000 a year. His parents, Sir Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford, were the most prominent Nazi apologists in Britain of their generation. Hitler and Goebbels attended their wedding. They were interned shortly after their son was born.
As a student activist in the early 1960s, Max Mosley supported his father's movement, and has never publicly renounced him. Underlying the News of the World's coverage of the sado-masochistic "orgy" was an innuendo that he still shared his father's extreme right views. But he has kept out of active politics for 45 years, although in the mid-1990s, he gave substantial sums to the Labour Party.Reuse content