Gribowsky jailed in F1 bribery case as judge points finger at Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo with Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky (GER) the majority shareholder of SLEC Holdings and Donald Mackenzie, Managing Partner of CVC Capital Partners.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 11 March 2006. DIGITAL IMAGE

Bernie Ecclestone with Gerhard Gribkowsky in 2006

Jun.28 (Reuters) A judge has jailed a German banker for more than 8 years on Wednesday, for taking $44 million in bribes during the sale of Formula One in a case that centred on a payment from Bernie Ecclestone, the motor sport’s commercial chief.

Presiding judge Peter Noll convicted BayernLB’s former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky of tax evasion, bribery and breach of fiduciary trust in a court in Munich.

Noll described the billionaire Ecclestone as the “driving force” behind the payments but said Gribkowsky, in turn, had shown “high criminal energy”.

Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 over the sale of BayernLB’s 48 percent stake in Formula One to UK investor CVC , which Formula One chief Ecclestone was keen to see as a new shareholder.

Gribkowsky told the court earlier this month that he received the money and a job offer as part of a secret agreement with Ecclestone in 2005.

Ecclestone has been subject to an investigation by German prosecutors but no charges have been filed against the 81-year-old Briton. He denies wrongdoing and has said that he was the victim of coercion by Gribkowsky.

“They based their decisions on what he told them. I told them the truth,” Ecclestone told Reuters, when asked about the verdict.

“I think Mr Gribkowsky told them what he thought he had to tell them. I don’t think I should [face further action] but you don’t know, do you?”

Ecclestone said Britain’s tax authorities had written to him within the past two or three months to say they were looking into his tax affairs.

“After all this, I’d have been surprised if they didn’t contact me,” he said, adding he would cooperate with the enquiry.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office has previously said it was liaising with the authorities in Germany to consider the allegations made in the case and whether there was scope for investigation.

Ecclestone, who gave evidence in court in November, has claimed that he paid some 10 million pounds ($16 million) to Gribkowsky to “keep him quiet” after the German “put him under pressure” over his tax affairs, rather than as a payment to smooth the sale to CVC.

“It’s not bribery,” Ecclestone said on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Christoph Rolder told the court on Wednesday that Ecclestone was “not the victim but a co-conspirator in corruption”.

Ecclestone has helped turn Formula One into a global business that is expected to have revenues of $2 billion this year. It tours the world in a 20-race season that regularly attracts television audiences of hundreds of millions.

BayernLB had ended up with the Formula One stake following the bankruptcy of late German media mogul Leo Kirch and had assigned Gribkowsky with the task of hiving it off.

CVC owned a 63 percent stake from 2006 but has cut that to around 35 percent with a series of sales in recent months.

Plans to float the business in Singapore this month were put on hold because of market turmoil.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Kevin

    So, here we are. Cheat once in F1 and you are out for life.

  • Kevin

    Looks like Bernie’s blessed life in F1 is heading into a bit of a rough spot. While I believe the sport needs a new vision and fresher management, it would be a shame to see it forced into being by the expulsion and locking up of its figure head. Who is in line to step up should this come out badly for the old guy? Certainly this should be putting wheels in motion to have a succession plan in place, regardless of this issues outcome, yes?

  • Kimi4WC

    Problem with all new managers/chairman, they all about shareholders.

    Now then teams are major stake holders in the sport, all this circus can spiral out of control with out a boss who can put his foot down.

    Would be interesting to know who Bernie personally thinks should replace his, cause I don’t think that will happen – “they” wont let him.

  • Prince

    There will be always corruption and issues :P

  • Bec

    If I was Mr.E I’d sue

    If the judge has any incriminating evidence he should go to court with it, not make damaging statements.

  • Jody Renza

    This is the norm deals are done in most parts of the world. In Africa you can’t get things done unless you channel money to someone!!
    Bernie is just a great/better negotiator than a lot of other people..what evidence is there against him, if any? Would like to know!

  • andrewf1

    “Ecclestone, who gave evidence in court in November, has claimed that he paid some 10 million pounds ($16 million) to Gribkowsky to “keep him quiet” after the German “put him under pressure” over his tax affairs, rather than as a payment to smooth the sale to CVC”

    I dont understand this part: so ok, it’s not bribery and it wasn’t regarding the sale of CVC. But seriously – if im in a situation to give out 10 freaking MILLION pounds, to keep someone quiet about my tax affairs – then it means the tax affairs themselves were worth a lot more than that, doesnt it? i have no idea how on Earth Ecclestone can come out of this whole thing guilt-free – if it gets proven that there were no tax-affairs, it means those 10 million were bribery. And frankly, i hope he’s found guilty, somebody new has to take over fom.

  • CJ

    See ya Bernie , he’s just another rich and ruthless man I agree with you andrewf1 he needs to go! not tomorrow yesterday!!
    Next please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!