F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has finally admitted that he paid $40 million to incarcerated German merchant banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.
The F1 CEO has been named – conveniently timed to coincide with this weekend’s Grand Prix at the Nurburgring – by Munich prosecutors investigating charges against Grobkowsky, although the 80-year-old has denied that the payments to Gribkowsky amounted to a bribe, instead hinting that he was blackmailed.
Gribkowsky was a crucial figure in brokering the sale of the sport’s commercial rights to CVC Capital Partners, and allegations surfaced that he had been paid a considerable kickback from Ecclestone – allegations denied until now – for his part in securing the deal.
The charges levelled against Gribkowsky allege that the German received $US44 million in bribes from Ecclestone, who in return – it is claimed – received $41.4 million in commissions from Bayerische Landesbank, the state-owned German bank, which owned a majority shareholding in the Formula One group. Ecclestone’s family trust, Bambino Holdings, allegedly received a further $25 million. Bayerische Landesbank has claimed it was unaware of any such activity, leading the Munich prosecutors to conclude that the payments – disguised as consulting contracts – amounted to nothing more than a bribe.
Speaking with the Daily Telegraph, Ecclestone said that Gribkowsky had claimed there were irregularities in Ecclestone’s offshore Bambino family trust and “threatened that he was going to say that I was running it”.
Ecclestone added: “The taxation people in England at the time were in the middle of settling everything with the trust and the last thing you need is for them to start thinking something different.
“[Gribkowsky] was shaking me down and I didn’t want to take a risk.”
At this stage, Ecclestone has not been charged and it is felt by many that the prosecutors will hold off until Gribkowsky’s trial – scheduled for later this year – is complete. Ultimately, it depends on what evidence that Gribkowsky tries to throw at Ecclestone – and the outcome of it – that will determine whether the prosecutors take further steps.
[Original image via Sutton Images]