Gribkowsky's lawyer insinuates that Ecclestone controls Bambino trust
The long-running trial against Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone came to a close in London's High Court Friday but a verdict won't be known until early next year.
The gap gives the media plenty of time to produce summaries of the events in court and the first of these came last night on BBC's Newsnight. Its investigation into the Ecclestone trial was carried out by the BBC's chief sports correspondent Dan Roan and can be seen here. It featured an interview with Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt but we dare say that he was by far and away not the star of the show. That accolade goes to Daniel Amelung, the lawyer for Gerhard Gribkowsky, former manager of German bank BayernLB.
Gribkowsky was jailed in Germany for eight-and-a-half years in 2012 for receiving a payment of £26.9m ($44m) from Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust.
The £26.9m payment was made between 2006 and 2007 and the allegation against Ecclestone is that the money was a bribe paid to Gribkowsky.
According to this argument, the bribe was paid so that Gribkowsky would sell BayernLB's 47.2% stake in F1 to CVC, as it had agreed to retain Ecclestone as F1's boss. This allegation is at the heart of the case against Ecclestone in London and it also underpins a case against him in New York as well as possible lawsuits in Germany and Switzerland.
Ecclestone's defense to all of these cases is identical; he says that Gribkowsky had threatened to make false claims about his tax affairs if the money was not paid. In specific, Ecclestone says that Gribkowsky insinuated that he was in control of Bambino and could have reported this to the UK tax authorities. If he had done so, it could have been very damaging indeed.
Ecclestone is a UK resident and a UK tax payer whereas Bambino is based offshore. The trust has £2.4bn ($4bn) in its coffers from selling stakes in F1 but, since it is offshore, no tax has been paid on the money. If Ecclestone was found to be in control of the trust the money would legally have to be treated as being his so he would have to pay tax on it. This payment would come to around £1bn which is a huge amount even for someone of Ecclestone's means.
Ecclestone strongly denies being in control of the trust and says that although Gribkowsky had no evidence to back up his threat, if he had contacted the UK tax authorities it would still have led to a long and costly investigation. This would have come at the worst possible moment as Ecclestone says he was already being investigated by the UK tax authorities at the time that Gribkowsky made his threats.
In court last year Gribkowsky denied that he was paid because he was making insinuations that Ecclestone controls the trust. Instead, Gribkowsky confessed that he was indeed bribed to sell F1 to CVC. In response, Ecclestone says that Gribkowsky confessed in order to reduce his sentence. However, Gribkowsky has stood by his court testimony in conversations with prosecutors since being convicted and still denies that he was paid because he was making insinuations that Ecclestone controls the trust. This brings us neatly back to Newsnight.
In an incredible turn of events Gribkowsky's lawyer Daniel Amelung last night made the very same insinuations which his client denies led to the £26.9m payment.
"It's a little bit ridiculous to say that he was blackmailed with informations about Bambino because it's an open secret that Mr. Ecclestone is the deciding man behind Bambino," said Amelung.
The fact that Amelung said this is surprising in itself but broadcasting it on national television is truly astonishing. It adds tremendous weight to Ecclestone's version of events as one could hardly say that Gribkowsky would never make such insinuations when his lawyer has broadcast them to the world. Let's not forget that these are the very same insinuations which Gribkowsky denied in sworn court testimony to be connected to the £26.9m payment from Ecclestone and Bambino.
Amelung couldn't have come out with this in a more high profile place and no doubt the judge who now has to rule on the Constantin case was playing close attention. Pitpass.com