LONDON (Reuters) - Motor racing chief Max Mosley launched legal action against a tabloid on Monday, denying involvement in a "sick Nazi orgy" but saying he had an interest in sado-masochistic sex.
Mosley, 68, president of Formula One's governing body the International Automobile Federation (FIA), is suing the News of the World over a story which claimed he had taken part in a Nazi-themed encounter with prostitutes.
Lawyers for Mosley, son of 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, told the High Court the paper was guilty of "a gross and indefensible intrusion of his private life".
The FIA chief had been interested in sado-masochism from an early age, his lawyer James Price said, but there were no Nazi connotations to the events covered by the paper which involved five women whom Mosley said he had paid 2,500 pounds.
Mosley said he could think of few more "unerotic" things than Nazi roleplay.
"There was not even a hint of that -- certainly not in my mind and, I'm convinced, not in the minds of any of the other participants. It simply didn't arise," he told the court.
Mosley faced pressure to quit his job after the story was published in March along with a series of lurid photographs and video footage on the paper's website. However, he won a vote of confidence at an FIA extraordinary general assembly last month.
The News of the World said it was justified in publishing the story because of Mosley's public role. However Price said the paper had been acting like a "peeping Tom".
"If the newspaper was hoping to get pictures of Mr Mosley doing a Nazi salute and saying 'Sieg Heil' or doing anything else connected to a death camp, they were to be completely disappointed," Price said.
The pictures were made worse by the "false suggestion that the events depicted involved him in playing a concentration camp commandant, mocking the humiliating way Jews were treated by SS death camp guards in World War Two", the lawyer said.
Price said the story had been driven entirely by Mosley's family name and the paper's pursuit of "sexual titillation".
"Bottom-spanking, whip fantasy and role play scenarios are an interest Mr Mosley accepts he has had since quite a young age," Price told the court.
Mosley told the judge he considered those involved had enjoyed it, adding that there had been no brutality.
"I think it is a perfectly harmless activity provided it is between consenting adults who want to do it, are of sound mind, and it is in private," he said.
He also revealed that neither his wife of 48 years nor sons knew about his interest in sado-masochism until the News of the World article.
"She never knew of this aspect of my life, so that headline in the newspaper was completely, totally devastating for her," he said, adding he could think of "nothing more undignified or humiliating" for his sons.
The hearing, expected to last about a week, continues.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Dominic Evans)