The Caterham Scam Continued: Connections in High Places
Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor landroni edited by TJ13 editor in chief Andrew Huntley Jacobs
Following the relentless investigative efforts by ProSport (a Romanian Publication), several new and intriguing elements have surfaced regarding the incredible events surrounding the fishy smelling
non-sale of Caterham and the contrived founding of Forza Rossa.
Updated 00:31 GMT Mon 22nd December 2014
I Forza Rossa and Victor Ponta
Back in the autumn, ProSport reported that they believed Victor Ponta, the current Romanian prime-minister and controversial failed presidential candidate in the Romanian 2014 Presidential elections, was the secret backer behind Ion Bazac fronted Forza Rossa (FR) project.
It has been widely assumed that the FR project was reliant upon Ponta Snr becoming president of Romania, and then delivering substantial political support and funding for the Formula One project. However, Ponta was defeated in the 2nd round of the Presidential vote mid November, by Klaus Iohannis,
Despite the exact financial arrangements for the project being unclear, the declared backer for the Forza Rossa project was Dr Ion Bazac. He is an ex-Social Democratic Party member (PSD in Romania), and is widely recognised as a close ally of Victor Ponta, currently the PSD party leader).
Back in February 2014, Dr Nicolae Bănicioiu – also a member of the PSD and the then Minister of Youth and Sport – was reportedly claiming, “To underline the serious nature of the Romanian bid, the country’s Minister of Youth and Sport Nicolae Banicioiu led a delegation that attended a meeting in the FIA logistics facility in Valleiry, near Geneva, earlier this week at which the proposals were examined by FIA engineers led by the federation’s Technical Director Bernard Niclot and Charlie Whiting”.
When asked about this, Ponta replied curtly, “Concerning Bănicioiu you should ask him! I only answer for myself!”
Joe Saward who penned this article, then speculated, “From what we can understand the project involves a Romanian-owned entity with government support and funding coming from a series of Romanian businesses. The project has the support of the country’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta [who] has been in power since 2012. It would involve the facilities of Kodewa and Holzer in Germany and would be run by expatriate Romanian Colin Kolles, who has had experience running various F1 teams in recent years.”
Despite failing to ever score a point, the Caterham budget was some $70-80m, and following a littlke digging, it transpires Bazac has an estimated net worth of just $20m. It therefore stands to reason that a more capable financial backer for the Froza Rossa project must have existed. Sauber are hardly the wealthiest F1 operation, yet team owner Peter is believed to be worth around $100m.
Ponta and Forza Rossa appear to be intrinsically linked and ProSport has offered a relationship tree explaining the key players in the Caterham and Forza Rossa affair. All are Romanian and three of them, bizarrely, part of some dentist syndicate:
- Victor Ponta, current Prime-Minister in Romania, reportedly lending political
support to the Forza Rossa
- Dr Nicolae Bănicioiu, current Minister of Health and ex-Minister of Youth and
Sport, and close to Victor Ponta, led in February 2014 a Forza Rossa delegation
to the FIA
- Dr Ion Bazac, ex-Minister of Health and currently a businessman reportedly
close to Ponta, is the official head of the Forza Rossa project
- Dr Colin Kolles, is an integral part to the Forza Rossa project via his KODEWA
operation based in Greding (Germany)
- Romulus Kolles, Colin’s father now in his ’80s, was named director at Caterham
and recruited 3 Romanians on the internet, including Constantin Cojocar, to spy
on the staff at Leafield
- Constantin Cojocar, ex-football player and chief of a bus depot, miraculously
promoted overnight from janitor (and spy, it seems) to sole director and shareholder
of Caterham during Colin Kolles’ tenure as head of the management
team. During his interview with ProSport he was in Greding, in Colin Kolles’
KODEWA facilities, which are now undeniably linked to the Forza Rossa operation
II Forza Rossa and Colin Kolles’ KODEWA
There appears to be little doubt now that there was a conduit between the Romanians and Ecclestone – who of course is keen to recruit more lambs to the slaughter – and in the case of Forza Rossa, the gopher was Colin Kolles as his father Romulous explains. ”The Kolles name appears in the FIA application, because he went to obtain all the necessary approvals from Ecclestone.”
For some unknown reason, the FIA appear to have a strong desire to fully exonerate Mr Ponta from any implication in the F1 project..
As shown in the cover letter sent by FR to the FIA, and signed by Dr Ion Bazac, a former health minister, Dr Colin Kolles was more than just part of the future plans of FR. In June 2014 Bogdan Sonea, the marketing representative at Forza Rossa, was confirming to the press that “Colin Kolles will be be our partner, given his experience in F1, in preparing and ironing out all the details related to our participation in F1”.
This could well be seen as a rather vague statement of intent and come October 2014, when the entire Caterham operation was going going belly up, FR duly quickly reneged on their claims to be intrinsically linked to Dr Kolles.
They now stated, “For the moment there is no official relationship between Mr Kolles and the Forza Rossa F1 Team. The involvement of Mr Kolles with the Caterham team is his personal choice and has no link to the Forza Rossa project which will activate in Romania.”
Given the December 2013 cover letter provided to the FIA – reported above, this appears most unconvincing. Back then, that document outlined the Forza Rossa structure and that the team’s mysterious backers would provide the “financial platform” for Dr Kolles’ German-based KODEWA to, “act as the operational arm of the Romanian entry”. In other words, Kolles wasn’t merely and advisor but instrumental and essential to the very existence of the new Romanian team.
Kolles’ KODEWA base in Germany was always set to provide the infrastructure for the technical side of the Romanian F1 project, without which the new F1 team Forza Rossa, could not exist.
Given these previous statements of intent, Forza Rossa’s current position that “there is no official relationship between Mr Kolles and the Forza Rossa F1 Team” and that the “involvement of Mr Kolles with the Caterham team is his personal choice and has no link to the Forza Rossa project,” appears tenuous to say the least.
Were Kolles to have jumped ship from the Forza Rossa project, the backers would have registered this matter back in June 2014. they didn’t and the statements they have since released smack of ‘covering ones back’ when the shit hit the fan over the Caterham mismanagement and intellectual property theft allegations brought by TJ13.
Forza Rossa and Walking PR disasters
Given the fact that FR insist they are to be 100% private effort with no government support, they appear to be remarkably unconcerned about flaunting their government connections. On 24 Nov, Forza Rossa made an emphatic official press release:
“Beginning with July 2014, the project of FR to participate in the F1 World Championship in 2015 has been halted, and categorically not delayed [or canceled] because of electoral reasons, as was speculated in the press.”
Strange, then, that on 31st Oct 2014, 3 months after the pretended halting of the project, FR Holding announced via a press release: ”The documentation sent to the FIA includes clear and detailed informations on the means, place and equipment that shall be used for the F1 team.”
Furthermore, it transpires that FR applied to the FIA as a Romanian team, but they did not have even a national license from the Romanian Auto Club (seemingly the only body accredited for issuing such licenses).
When asked by ProSport, the Romanian Auto Club responded with “No one contacted us [on this matter].”
Whilst the proposed Forza Rossa team has no racing license even at national level, they do have a PO Box in Cyprus by which they can be contacted.
It now seems that the Caterham racing license was actually of particular importance to Kolles, FR and sidekick Manfredi, along with the valuable Intellectual property for a 2015 car – paid for by Caterham’s creditors.
What is clear though, is that team Forza Rossa stated their motive was to be “promoting Romania worldwide through projects of highest media return and reputational standing; in order to achieve the final goal of showing Romania and its capabilities worldwide”, Yet the FIA application may imply that they were not doing particularly good job…
Caterham’s creditors meet tomorrow to decide the fate of the company; and whilst there has allegedly been very recent interest from investors willing to buy the Leafield team, the FIA regulations meeting in Doha on Dec 3rd 2014 – in effect killed the last vestige of hope for a buyer for thebackmarker F1 team, recognisable in green.