Police take yacht used by Briatore

Italian police on Friday seized the yacht used by former head of Renault Formula One racing team Flavio Briatore for alleged smuggling and evasion of taxes.

"It is certain that the only user of this yacht is Flavio Briatore," a police officer told AFP, even though Briatore rents it from a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

Prosecutors were investigating Briatore because, as a European Union citizen, he was not allowed to bring a boat into the EU without paying value added tax estimated at $5 million, police said.

Briatore is also accused of evading more than $900,000 worth of fuel duty over two years.

He was not on board when police seized the boat named Force Blu at sea off La Spezia, northwest Italy, on a warrant from prosecutors in Genoa, but his wife Elisabetta Gregoraci and baby son Falco Nathan were.

The flamboyant Briatore and Renault's former director of engineering Pat Symonds were originally banned from motor racing last September by the sport's governing body for allegedly ordering Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to gain a tactical advantage in the race.

However, both men appealed the decision and in early January won their cases in a Paris court. However they agreed with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) to stay out of Formula One until the end of 2012.

Briatore denied all the accusations leveled against him and vowed to fight to clear his name.