The European Union's European Arrest Warrant legislation, the bane of Formula One, has claimed its first casualty with the announcement that the FIA president, Max Mosley, has declared his intention to move his private office in London to Monte Carlo. Mosley is believed in any case to have become slightly disenchanted with recent events in the UK, but took the decision after seeking legal advice on possible consequences of the warrant.
"The European Arrest Warrant allows a magistrate anywhere in the EU to have a UK citizen arrested, extradited and delivered into custody in respect of a number of wide-ranging offences," Mosley explained.
"The UK courts cannot protect an accused, because it is no longer necessary to show a prima facie case or even provide evidence that an offence has been committed. This power is currently exercisable by magistrates in eight of the 15 EU member states and will shortly extend to magistrates in 25 countries once the new states join the EU on 1 May 2004.
"The danger for anyone involved in motor sport is obvious. For example, following an accident, a local magistrate can order a high-profile arrest within the EU. Once the accused has been extradited, the local magistrate may offer the accused a choice: plead guilty in return for release and a suspended sentence or remain in custody for months until trial. Such practices do, unfortunately, occur and despite nearly two years of lobbying, the warrant has no safeguards against such abuse."
Formula One team principals based in the UK have made their concerns public, and Mosley thinks they are likely to succeed in securing undertakings that the warrant will not be applied against sporting events. "However," he added, "as president of the FIA, which has events of all kinds throughout the EU, I have been advised that it would be prudent to relocate outside EU jurisdiction."
The headquarters of the FIA will remain in the Place de la Concorde in Paris, and by the middle of March any remaining staff from the Trafalgar Square office will have relocated to Paris.
Mosley will be accompanied to the Monte Carlo office by Charlie Whiting, the race director and safety delegate at each grand prix, but it is unlikely that Bernie Ecclestone will consider moving his empire from Princes Gate, since his main link with the sport is on the commercial side.
Several Formula One drivers already reside in Monte Carlo - notably Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Coulthard.Michael Schumacher resides in non-EU Switzerland so also escapes the warrant's jurisdiction.Reuse content