F1 supremo Ecclestone accused of $51m bribe

Last updated 10:20 14/05/2014
Bernie Ecclestone
IN COURT: Bernie Ecclestone hears claims he bribed a banker to smooth a deal.

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A jailed former German banker has told a court that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone bribed him when they worked together in the motorsport, supporting the prosecution case in the Briton's trial.

Ecclestone was accused of eight years ago bribing Gerhard Gribkowsky by channelling US$44 million (NZ$51m) to him in return for smoothing the sale of a stake in Formula One held by bank BayernLB to the private equity firm CVC.

The 83-year-old, who denied the bribery charges, could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty and a conviction would end his long grip on a business he helped to create.

''The offer clearly came from him,'' Gribkowsky told the court in Munich as Ecclestone followed proceedings with the help of an interpreter.

''I accepted the offer.''

Gribkowsky traced his agreement with Ecclestone back to a series of meetings, including one on May 17, 2005, and said he was culpable for allowing himself to be corrupted.

''I had a carrot dangled in front of me. I grabbed the carrot,'' he added.

However, Gribkowsky, who had started giving evidence in the trial last week, was again unable to say precisely what Ecclestone expected in return for the payment.

''That remained vague,'' he told judge Peter Noll, who also presided over the case in 2012 when Gribkowsky was jailed for 8-1/2 years in relation to the payments.

The relationship between Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at German bank BayernLB, and Ecclestone was the central issue in a case that threatened to cost the Formula One boss his reputation as well as his job.

Prosecutors alleged Ecclestone favoured CVC as the new owner because it was committed to keeping him on as chief executive of a business he had built into a global money spinner over the previous three decades.

Ecclestone admitted making multi-million dollar payments to Gribkowsky, but said this was to silence the German who he said was threatening to make false claims about his tax status that could have jeopardised his fortune.

The German said he had spread rumours about Ecclestone's tax status after clashes over the running of the business, but denied blackmailing him.

''We didn't have anything concrete. It was mainly nuisance value,'' he said, adding he had told the British tax authorities the same thing when they asked him about Ecclestone's tax affairs.

Gribkowsky had become involved in Formula One after BayernLB acquired a 47 per cent stake in the business following the collapse of the Kirch media group in 2002.

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- Reuters

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