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Smaller teams see progress in money talks

Formula One's smaller teams felt at least a penny had dropped on Saturday after meeting the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and rights holders CVC to discuss demands for more money. Sauber, Force India and Lotus bosses told reporters at an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix briefing that Ecclestone had apologized for calling them 'beggars' and recognized they had a point in seeking a re-distribution of revenues."It's one of the first times, I wouldn't be arrogant to say it's the only time, where you really feel somehow that with some key people the coin has dropped," declared Lotus principal Gerard Lopez."When CVC took over, the sport was generating $245 million for the teams, it's now generating close to $900 million, but it's almost in a worse state than it has ever been."The three teams had sent a letter to Ecclestone earlier in the week seeking a meeting at the season-ending race after being frustrated in their calls for cost cuts and a more equitable division of revenues.

They argue that a sport that returns $900 million to the teams, albeit in unequal shares, should not be in a position where some have gone into administration and others are in danger of collapse. Top teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull receive special payments and also sit on the sport's decision-making 'strategy group'. The teams had spoken in their letter, signed by Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley, of "a questionable cartel" of rights holder and top teams that controlled "both the governance of Formula One and, apparently, the distribution of...funds."

One British politician has subsequently brought the matter to the attention of the European Commission's competition authorities. Force India boss Vijay Mallya sensed a more cooperative spirit on the part of the rights holders, noting that Ecclestone and CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie "had done their homework".

"My take is they are seriously thinking about how to address this issue," he added. Lopez said the EU was discussed briefly in Saturday's meeting and, while shrugging off a suggestion that it had been the issue that made the penny drop, recognized it was lurking in the background."I’ve dealt with the EU in two of our businesses, I'm not sure whether or not something is going to happen but you do not want the EU to get involved in any business," he said.

Swiss say 2012 suspect money flows stayed above $3 bln

* Numbers slightly down on Arab-Spring fuelled 2011* Assets with suspected terrorist links up 50 times* MROS expected to be granted more powersZURICH, May 14 Switzerland said suspicious asset flows through its financial system in 2012 were close to the record reported a year earlier, with suspected criminal activity replacing a fall off in Arab Spring related transactions. The country's Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) said on Tuesday banks and other financial institutions reported nearly 1,600 suspicious transactions last year with a total value of 3.15 billion Swiss francs ($3.3 billion) against 3.3 billion francs in 2011.

Total financial transactions in Switzerland come to several trillion francs each year, as they include commercial buying and selling, the buying and selling of financial assets like shares or derivatives and movements in personal bank accounts. Switzerland has sought to get tougher in the fight against illegal money flows into the country as it tries to shrug off an image as a haven for ill-gotten funds, and in the midst of a global crackdown on tax evasion. Funds that are regarded as suspicious remain frozen unless and until they have been cleared as legitimate, Ordolli said.

MROS said both the number of reports and the money involved were slightly lower in 2012 than in 2011, when some 1 billion francs of transactions connected to political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East inflated the data. But the office received more reports on suspected criminal flows, which includes forgery, fraud and criminal gang activity.

"Financial institutions are much more aware of this problem now. They know it is not in their interests to deal with suspect money, and are using far more effective means to identify it."Two thirds of the reports to MROS came from banks, while the payment services sector accounted for a quarter, with suspicion of fraud being the most commonly cited reason for reporting. An amendment to the country's anti-money laundering act expected to be passed into law this summer will extend MROS's powers, including allowing it to cooperate more closely with foreign investigators."The new powers will be fundamental in our fight against such cases, which are increasingly complex and international," Ordolli said. ($1 = 0.9573 Swiss francs)