|Frank Williams & his partners Hugo Chavez and Nursultan
F1 journalist Joe Saward has a post at his blog about Williams, the F1 team, and Nursultan Nazerbayev's fiefdom, otherwise known as the Republic of Kazakhstan. It is interesting to see how professional journalists report on the dealings of dictators with F1 teams. In the last couple of years, Williams has gotten no small amount of criticism due to its deal with the late Hugo Chavez, who in characteristic dictatorial fashion one good day decided to waste millions of public funds from PDVSA on a third rate F1 team, on a sponsorship deal that has brought zero dividends for Venezuela. So confident are the Williams people that PDVSA's money will continue flowing that after Chavez's death they even dared saying to the press that their contract with PDVSA was watertight and would continue regardless (a preposterous allegation that has no basis in law).
When I first found out about the racket, I got in touch with Venezuelan Congressman Carlos Ramos, and basically asked him to start questioning the deal in Venezuela's Congress. After all, our current laws establish that PDVSA's expenditure need be approved by its board, but Congress has the final say on how or if proposed expenditure is to be approved (PDVSA is an oil conglomerate fully owned by the Venezuelan State). So Congressman Ramos started demanding questions about the deal, both in Venezuela and in England, and even agreed to sign a letter that I drafted and subsequently sent to Williams. Unfortunately, international attention on the issue caused some trouble to the Congressman back in the farm, and he admitted to me that "he was risking everything" by adopting such frontal stance regarding the corrupt and illegal deal.
Williams, a publicly traded company that's doing rather well, is totally unfazed by the whole thing. The thinking must go along the lines of "who are these little brown people questioning our affairs? Do they not know that our 'contracts' are watertight?" So far, they've been lucky. Henrique Capriles failed to win the last election, and so as long as chavismo is in power, they will likely continue getting Venezuelan public funds, nothing to do with legality of contract but rather with prevalent corruption and lawlessness. Probably foreseeing what will undoubtedly be an end of the deal should the opposition reach power in Venezuela, which will happen whatever their 'legal experts' would like to say, Williams has now branched out to another dictatorship: the Republic of Kazakhstan. Its ruler, Nazerbayev, another utterly corrupt and thuggish dictator (he calls himself Leader of the Nation in true Kim Jong il style) apparently has agreed to provide some funding to the team. Therefore, the question I would like to ask is: which tinpot dictator will become Williams F1's next sponsor?