FIA ethics committee member resigns after Mohammed ben Sulayem allegations not investigated

Mohammed ben Sulayem – FIA ethics committee member resigns after Mohammed Ben Sulayem allegations not investigated

Mohammed ben Sulayem (left) at the British Grand Prix in July – Getty Images/Mark Thompson

An influential member of the FIA’s ethics committee has resigned following a disagreement over whether to investigate allegations of bullying and sexism levelled at president Mohammed ben Sulayem.

Telegraph Sport understands that Robert Darbelnet, the former president and chief executive of the powerful American Automobile Association (AAA), resigned his position earlier this month.

It is unclear exactly what prompted his departure but it is believed the committee was divided over whether to investigate allegations made against Emirati president Ben Sulayem.

In the end it did not do so, despite an official request from one member federation to look into them.

Telegraph Sport reported in April that Shaila-Ann Rao, the FIA’s former interim secretary general for motorsport, had sent a letter alleging numerous instances of “unacceptable behaviour” on the part of Ben Sulayem prior to her abrupt departure last December.

The claims, which were sent to Ben Sulayem and to Carmelo Sanz de Barros, the president of the FIA Senate, were not investigated by the ethics committee at the time.

An FIA spokesperson told Telegraph Sport in April that “mutual privacy terms had been agreed [with Rao] as is commonplace in business” adding that “neither party had made a reference to the FIA Ethics Committee”.

Off the back of that story, Telegraph Sport knows of at least one European automobile club that officially requested an investigation but the six-person committee was divided over whether to do so.

The committee has undergone recent personnel changes, with the election of a new president, Nigerian Michael Ango, along with another Nigerian, Denen Ikya. There are also two Brazilians and one Italian.

It has now lost the services of hugely experienced Darbelnet, who was head of the powerful AAA when it split from the FIA after Max Mosley won a vote of confidence following a tabloid sting in 2008.

The American federation, which comprises 61 million members across the United States and Canada, has still not returned.

Darbelnet was also a former FIA vice-president (mobility). His current term was due to end in 2026.

A spokesperson for the FIA said: “The Ethics Committee is an FIA internal body created in 2012 with the mission to provide guidance on the FIA Code of Ethics to the FIA community and the duty to assess related concerns.

“The members of the Ethics Committee perform their duties in an independent, autonomous, and confidential manner in compliance with the FIA Statutes.

“Robert Darbelnet is no longer a member of the FIA Ethics Committee after he took the decision to resign.”

Darbelnet declined to comment when contacted by Telegraph Sport.

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