Bernie Ecclestone and his lawyers look set to be busy in the coming weeks, with confirmation that German prosecutors have agreed to expedite its hearing into allegations that the Formula 1 supremo acted improperly during the sale of the sport’s commercial rights.
Ecclestone was already set to face a hearing on October 29 in London’s High Court over the same matter, in which German media company Constantin Medien AG is suing him for damages, claiming that BayernLB’s shares in the Formula One group were sold at a substantially lesser price because the bank’s representative, Gerhard Gribkowsky, accepted a $44 million payment – alleged as a bribe – in the process.
Gribkowsky was found guilty of accepting the payments and sentenced to jail, although Ecclestone has continued to maintain that he paid off Gribkowsky because he threatened to reveal details over his financial affairs to the British tax officials.
But there’s now an added complication, with the German courts bringing forward their hearing over the same charges to November 6. It had been thought that the Munich hearing wouldn’t take place until the New Year, but the expediting of this could mean it will rule ahead of the London High Court hearing.
While the London hearing is focused on civil and commercial damages, the Germans will be deciding if Ecclestone should actually be indicted on criminal charges over his involvement in the affair.
German court proceedings are considerably different to the UK justice system, where both sides have to argue their case to a judge in the hearing. The German slant is to present all case material upfront, in order to allow a judge to determine whether a hearing should take place at all.
There will be a lot more to this in the coming days, and the details will certainly prove fascinating.