Ex-F1 team principal facing criminal charges

Gerard Lopez sold the Lotus team to Renault ahead of the 2016 season, and the Enstone side has since become Alpine.

For Lotus team boss Gerard Lopez is facing criminal charges for alleged forgery that took place while he was in charge of the Enstone-based side.

Lopez is the founder of the Genii Capital Group that bought shares in Renault in 2011 having re-founded Lotus in 2010, and Genii’s investment helped the team score two podiums through Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld that year.

The Luxembourgish-Spaniard then acquired the Renault team fully in 2012 and renamed it Lotus, and the team previously known as Lotus in 2010 and 2011 became Caterham for the 2012, 13 and 14 seasons before they folded.

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That team would take two wins with Kimi Raikkonen and 15 podiums between the Finn and French team-mate Romain Grosjean.

Their final podium arrived at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix when Grosjean took third, and that happened amid financial struggles for the British team that led to bailiffs getting involved and ceasing their assets.

Eventually, Lopez had to sell the team back to Renault, and the Genii name has not been seen in the pinnacle of motorsport since.

Lopez was first looked into after he donated a £400,000 to the Tory Party not long before the EU referendum in the UK, and he is now under scrutiny for a series of payments made during his spell at Lotus, for whom he served as team principal in 2014 and 2015 following the departure of Eric Boullier.

The payments were made from Lotus to Fola Esch Football Club in Luxembourg as well as a Hong Kong-based investment firm.

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There is suspicion as to the nature of these payments, and Lopez is under investigation for forgery.

“Luxembourg public prosecutor’s office has asked the Luxembourg district court sitting in chambers to refer Mr Lopez to a criminal court. The offences in question are forgery and use of forgeries,” said a spokesperson from the Luxembourg judiciary department.

The 50-year-old is said to vehemently dismiss these allegations, and is optimistic that the charges against him will be dropped.

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“[Mr Lopez] categorically denies the allegations against him,” said his spokesperson.

“He is confident that the [court in chambers], which has yet to hear his position, will clear his name. The [court] is yet to rule on whether to hold a trial or dismiss these proceedings.”