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Sports News

UPDATE 1-Motor racing-Former Ferrari engineer Stepney sentenced

* Stepney sentenced after plea bargain

* Engineer central to 2007 Formula One spy scandal (Adds background)

MILAN, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney, who was accused of sabotage and leaking confidential data to McLaren in a 2007 Formula One spy scandal, has been given a jail sentence after a plea bargain.

Local media reported that Stepney was sentenced on Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison and handed a 600 euro ($817) fine. Italy’s legal system means he is highly unlikely to serve any time in jail.

“We are satisfied, even if my client has always denied sabotage,” his lawyer Sonia Bartolini was quoted as saying by the Gazzetta di Modena website after a hearing in Sassuolo, near Ferrari’s Maranello base.

“We have to thank the prosecutor for agreeing to a plea bargain. Initially the sentence was much higher.”

Neither Stepney nor court officials could be contacted immediately.

Briton Stepney was accused of passing technical Ferrari data to rivals McLaren and trying to damage Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa’s cars before the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix while still working for the team.

McLaren were fined a record $100 million by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and stripped of all their constructors’ points at a 2007 hearing after being found guilty of possessing a 780-page dossier of Ferrari data.

Both Stepney and McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan were sacked by their teams.

The FIA took no formal action against Stepney, since he was not a licence holder of the governing body, but recommended that teams should have no professional ties with him for a two-year period.

Stepney has consistently denied allegations of sabotage. Ferrari had said a mysterious powder was found around the petrol caps of both their cars before the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix.

Powder turned up in Stepney’s trouser pocket but the Briton has said he was set up. (Writing by Mark Meadows; Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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