A court in Argentina is re-opening a criminal investigation against Jeremy Clarkson and ‘Top Gear’, with regard to the controversial Christmas special episode set in the South American state, with prosecutors seeking a three-year sentence for the former presenter.

Clarkson and his ‘Top Gear’ colleague Richard Hammond and James May sparked fury in the southern-most province of Tierra Del Fuego in October last year, when Clarkson drove the whole 1,400 mile trip in a red Porsche with the licence plate H982 FKL – taken to be a reference to the Falklands War between Argentina and Britain by irate locals and veterans of the conflict.

Jeremy ClarksonJeremy Clarkson being interviewed by new 'Top Gear' host Chris Evans in 2015

The specific charge being brought against Clarkson is of “falsifying, altering or suppressing the number of a legally registered object”, referring to the method by which he escaped the fury of the mob, as he changed the licence plate to HI VAE and abandoned the car.

It is an offence to change a licence plate in Argentina, and an investigation was initially launched under the pressure of complaints from Falklands veterans. Though the judge in the first instance decided not to pursue a full criminal investigation, the court of appeals in the province has now ordered the case to be re-opened.

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The court’s decision raises the possibility of Clarkson and his two colleagues – now preparing a new series for Amazon Prime after Clarkson’s dismissal from the BBC earlier this year – returning to Argentina to give evidence, with a potential sentence of between six months and three years.

Former ‘Top Gear’ producer Andy Wilman admitted in a blog post subsequently that they had removed the licence plate to help quell the unrest as they entered Ushuaia, which is where the trouble started, though the BBC has consistently denied accusations that the car was bought for its licence plate, or that it was removed.

However, the case’s original instigator Osvaldo Hillar, a veteran of the 1982 war, said after the news broke that the investigation would be re-opened, said: “We believe that the Top Gear crew changed the plates in the full knowledge that what they were doing was illegal.”

It must be emphasised that it would take years for the case to reach the point of a possible custodial sentence for Clarkson or anybody else involved, as Argentina would have to file for extradition, which is a lengthy political and judicial procedure that may not even work.

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