The London High Court hearing into Bernie Ecclestone’s alleged bribery antics has gotten underway on Tuesday, with the 83-year-old accused of engaging in “a corrupt agreement” during the part-sale of Formula 1’s commercial rights in 2006.
The case has been filed by Constantin Medien, which is seeking damages of at least £90 million (AU$152M), arguing that BayernLB’s 47% stake was undervalued when it was sold to CVC Capital Partners.
Philip Marshall QC, representing Constantin Medien, told the hearing that Ecclestone had made £27 million (AU$45M) in “corrupt payments” to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky during the sale, which occurred “without the normal and proper process” and to ensure Ecclestone would retain his position as Formula 1’s chief executive.
Gribkowsky served as the broker of the sale to CVC, and was last year jailed for bribery, breach of trust and tax evasion.
While Ecclestone has publically admitted to paying Gribkowsky, not surprisingly, his lawyers have argued Constantin Medien’s claims should be dismissed.
“In short, this is an artificial, manufactured, complaint,” Ecclestone’s lawyer, Robert Miles QC, told the hearing.
“The claim fails on each of its elements. There was no conspiracy, there was no intent to injure Constantin. Constantin has suffered no loss.
“It was arranged that Dr Gribkowsky would be given a pay off by way of consultancy package as he was requesting,” Miles added.
“Mr Ecclestone agreed to a pay off because of the tax threats and insinuations which he had received from Dr Gribkowsky.”
The hearing will continue into next week, with Ecclestone not expected to attend and give evidence until after this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
While a German court hearing into the same complaint is expected to get underway next week, as we confirmed, but now Swiss prosecutors have also confirmed they have kicked off their own investigation into the alleged bribery case.
All of these cases and investigations are doing no end of damage for the sport’s image, and it will make it impossible for CVC Capital Partners to float the sport in the short term, as they have been wanting to do for some time.