FIA's Mosley wins Nazi-orgy allegation lawsuit

Max Mosley on Thursday won a court decision against News of the World newspaper, a United Kingdom publication that in March bore headlines that the FIA president had taken part in a "Nazi-themed orgy" with five prostitutes in a tony London ...

Max Mosley on Thursday won a court decision against News of the World newspaper, a United Kingdom publication that in March bore headlines that the FIA president had taken part in a "Nazi-themed orgy" with five prostitutes in a tony London neighborhood. The paper posted on its website video secretly taken by one of the prostitutes who sold the video to the paper. She later failed to appear to testify in court.

The International Automobile Federation is the sanctioning body for and confers world championships in Formula One, World Rally,and World Touring Car series.

Mosley, who did not contest that he partook in a sado-masochistic exercise in late March, was awarded 60,000 pounds -- about $118,200 -- in damages, well short of the amount sought. Mosley sought punitive rather than compensatory damages and contested the Nazi assertion of the report. He is the son of England's most famous fascist, Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists who was jailed during World War II for his efforts and his association with Adolf Hitler, honored guest at Mosley's wedding.

Mosley sued the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper for breach of privacy, a position made possible not by English law but through human rights protocols adopted by the European Union of which the United Kingdom is a member.

Judge in the case, High Court Justice Eady, agreed with Mosley that he could expect privacy for his sex life. "It is not for the state for for the media to expose sexual conduct which does not involve any significant breach of the criminal law," Eady wrote in his opinion.

The justice said the newspaper's assertion of Nazi links would have held implications for the 122 million-member worldwide motoring body of which Mosley is head. Eady found no evidence that the gathering "was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behavior or adoption of any of its attitudes."

"I have come to the conclusion (although others might disagree) that if it really were the case, as the newspaper alleged, that the Claimant had for entertainment and sexual gratification been 'mocking the humiliating way the Jews were treated,' or 'parodying Holocaust horrors,' there could be a public interest in that being revealed at least to those in the FIA to whom he is accountable," Eady wrote in his judgment. "He has to deal with many people of all races and religions, and has spoken out against racism in the sport. If he really were behaving in the way I have just described, that would, for many people, call seriously into question his suitability for his FIA role. It would be information which people arguably should have the opportunity to know and evaluate."

Eady wrote that he found no mocking behavior or evidence of Nazi behavior. "I am unable to identify any legitimate public interest to justify either the intrusion of secret filming or the subsequent publication."

Mosley said he was delighted and called the decision "devastating" for the News of the World.

"It demonstrates their Nazi lie was completely invented and had no justification," Mosley, himself an attorney, said outside the court. "It also shows they had no right to go into private premises and take pictures and films of adults engaged in activities that are no one's business but those of the people themselves."

News of the World editor Colin Myler read a statement outside the court that said the newspaper stood by its story, that the public has a right to know about Mosley's behavior because of his obligation to the FIA membership, and that the European privacy law is a threat to press freedom.

"The newspaper believed that what it published on March 30, 2008, was legitimate and lawful and moreover the publication was justified by the public interest in exposing Mr. Mosley's serious impropriety," Myler's statement read in part. "As the elected head of the FIA, Mr. Mosley is the leader of the richest sport in the world, with a global membership of almost 125 million. This newspaper has always maintained that because of his status and position, he had an obligation to honor the standard which his vast membership had every right of expect of him. Taking part in depraved and brutal S&M orgies on a regular basis does not, in our opinion, constitute the fit and proper behavior to be expected of someone in his hugely influential position."

Myler, whose statement referred to Eady making his decision with input from judges in Strasbourg, France, site of the European Union Court of Human Rights, said his publication would keep fighting for its readers' right to know.

While a number of news outlets focused on the case for its implications for so-called press freedom, Eady said his was not a landmark decision. He ordered the newspaper to pay Mosley's legal fees, estimated at $886,500, as well as the newspaper's nearly $800,000 in lawyers' costs. Mosley said he would give monies awarded in the case to the FIA Foundation, a leading advocate for global road safety.

Former Formula One participants including Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss reiterated that the episode makes Mosley's position as head of the sport untenable. Active F1 participants have not commented on his situation since Mosley won a vote of confidence of the FIA general membership in June.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jackie Stewart , Stirling Moss