A judge in Argentina has been told to reopen a criminal investigation into former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s infamous drive, after an appeal alleged the decision to switch his car number plate referencing the Falklands War was illegal.
Top Gear’s 2014 Christmas Special road trip through South America ended in angry protests in October last year after the car Clarkson was driving was seen with the number plate H982 FKL – taken to be a reference to the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina in the Falkland Islands. The number plate was swapped to HI VAE before the crew were forced to abandon the car and flee the country.
A previous investigation ruled that Clarkson and the Top Gear team had not acted in “bad faith” when they changed the offending number plate, but now they’re under investigation once again after an appeal from Argentine War veterans.
“We think that the Top Gear team changed the plates with full knowledge of the fact that it was illegal,” said Osvaldo Hillard, spokesman of the Centre for Malvinas Veterans.
The specific charge from prosecutor Daniel Curtale against Clarkson is of “falsifying, altering or suppressing the number of a legally registered object” – ie illegally switching the car number plate. The prosecutor is seeking the maximum sentence of three years in prison, according to the Guardian.
Then Top Gear producer Andy Wilman has always insisted that the H982 FKL number plate was not chosen deliberately, adding that the team decided to switch the plate with the agreement of the local authorities in an effort to diffuse the situation.
“Knowing this could be a problem, our office spoke to the local authorities in Ushuaia, the town where the war issue was most sensitive, and where we would end our trip in ten days’ time with a massive game of car football. We agreed with those authorities that the plates would be removed before we entered the town,” he wrote in a blog at the time.
Clarkson and Wilman are currently working together along with James May and Richard Hammond on their new car series for Amazon.