F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has made his first appearance at a Munich court to answer questions about alleged bribe payments made to German merchant banker Gerhard Gribkowsky during the time of the sport’s commercial rights were sold to CVC Capital Partners in 2005.
While previously admitting that did pay off Gribkowsky to the tune of $40 million, but only on the basis that Gribkowsky had hinted he would disclose to British tax authorities that the 81-year-old was (allegedly) trying to dodge paying tax by placing billions of dollars in the Ecclestone family’s Bambino Trust fund.
The matter hinges on whether Ecclestone actually controls this trust, and whether Grobkowsky had directly threatened Ecclestone that he would go public; Bernie has denied both allegations.
“I was under the impression that he might have given some information to the Revenue in England which I did not know much about,” Ecclestone said at the hearing.
“If he had done and the Revenue had investigated and been successful it would have been extremely expensive. There was a large amount of money at stake and it would have been so easy for the Revenue to assess me and put the burden on me to prove that it wasn’t correct. I couldn’t afford to take the risk, simple as that.”
The hearing will continue for the next few days, and prosecutors will no doubt want to hear more from Ecclestone in relation to these dealings and the circumstances surrounding them.
It must be stressed that Ecclestone has not been charged, but this could occur, stemming from what is actually said during these proceedings.
No doubt CVC Capital will be watching proceedings closely.
[Original image via SKY]