F1 money given to Syrian organisation with strong links to Assad regime

As much as €150,000 of money generated from Formula One has been given to a Syrian motorsport organisation that has strong links to President Bashar al Assad’s government, it has been revealed.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), F1’s governing body, has granted up to €50,000 [£45,828] per year since 2014 to the Syrian Automobile Club as part of its Sport Grant Programme, a scheme that is “dedicated to developing motor sport”.

The FIA allows grants to be paid to all 245 members, with the money generated directly from F1 in an effort to filter finances down the motorsport ladder to improve grassroots racing.

The money has helped fund motor racing events in Syria over the last three years, but an ITV News investigation has revealed that many of these events were sponsored by the Assad regime.

Furthermore, the Syrian tourism minister, Bishir Yazigi, has used these events to publically praise the Assad regime. Yazigi is currently barred from entering the European Union under EU sanctions and his European assets have been frozen because he “shares responsibility for the regime’s violent repression against the civilian population”, according to EU filings.

The revelations come at a time when the Syrian government has been accused of carrying out the chemical attack in Khan Shaykun earlier this year, according to a United Nations Commission released this week.

US airstrikes on Syria, explained

Mr Assad and his government have been vilified for their role in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced more than five million people to flee their homes. International observers have accused it of using chemical weapons and barrel bombs against its own citizens.

State-run Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) reported in 2014 that a rallycross championship was organised in the Damascus countryside by the SAC in cooperation with the…

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