Coughlan implicates Neale; McLaren denial
As speculation grows about the content of an affidavit provided by McLaren chief engineer Mike Coughlan to Ferrari which details how he came into possession of stolen Ferrari documents, McLaren has issued a carefully hedged denial of culpability.
According to the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday, Coughlan’s affidavit specifically implicates McLaren Team Manager Jonathan Neale – at least to the extent that Neale was shown the documents by Coughlan, knew Coughlan had them, and advised Coughlan to destroy them – rather than giving them back to their owner. This revelation cannot be a comfortable one for either Neale or Team McLaren. Whether or not Neale’s suggestion that Coughlan destroy evidence of a crime violates British criminal law, it cannot be comforting to have this information revealed just as the FIA is investigating the circumstances by which McLaren came into possession of those documents and scheduled to begin hearings on July 26th.
Coughlan has also implicated others on the team, who have not been identified, to the same extent: as having been shown the documents and telling Coughlan to “get rid of them.”
In response to the Sunday reports, McLaren issued an new denial on Monday. In it, McLaren states that “no Ferrari materials or data have ever been in possession of any McLaren employee other than [Coughlan]. The fact that he held at his home unsolicited materials from Ferrari was not known to any other member of the team prior to [the search of Coughlan’s house which located them].
Not a single word in the new McLaren statement contradicts the published reports about the content of Coughlan’s affidavit. The statement merely denies that McLaren team members, other than Coughlan, themselves possessed the stolen papers and denies that anyone on the team knew where Coughlan had stashed them, i.e., that he had them at his home. It does not deny that Neale and others on the team knew Coughlan had the materials. It does not deny that Neale and others saw them.
Of course, how long they looked at the materials remains an open question. Professing ignorance of the fact that someone hadn’t destroyed the evidence isn’t exactly exculpatory, either.