Report - Banker paid $50m for F1 power role? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong.' Innocent until proven guilty. The banker accused of taking a $50 million bribe amid the sale of F1's commercial rights five years ago has been arrested.
It emerged earlier this week that as the rights were passing from the controlling Bayerische Landesbank to CVC Capital Partners, the Munich bank's F1 representative Gerhard Gribkowsky may have received the sum as an under the table 'thank you'.
The speculation emerged due to his formation of a charity foundation in Austria, with reports saying Gribkowsky had "no plausible explanation" about the source of the millions.
Munich prosecutors confirmed late on Wednesday that Gribkowsky was arrested and taken into custody on charges of corruption, tax fraud and breach of trust by selling the F1 rights "without evaluation of its current value" and taking the kickback.
The prosecutors did not say who paid the 52-year-old, and a spokesman for F1's current rights owners CVC initially declined to comment.
But a spokeswoman for the prosecutors said Gribkowsky received the money "in payments disguised via two consultancy agreements".
CVC then said in a statement that it has "no knowledge of, nor any involvement in, any payment to Mr. Gribkowsky or anyone connected with him in relation to CVC's acquisition of formula one".01/04/11 (GMM) According to a report in the German press, a banker became a multi-millionaire following his links to formula one's commercial rights.
Before the rights were sold to CVC Capital Partners some years ago, Bayerische Landesbank board member Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky was a regular in the F1 paddock as the sport's carmakers threatened to split and race in a 'breakaway' series.
At that time, BayernLB controlled the rights and Gribkowsky was reportedly instrumental in restoring that control to F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone after the sale to CVC.
The Seddeutsche Zeitung newspaper speculates that as a 'thank you' for supporting the now 80-year-old British billionaire, Gribkowsky may have been paid the handsome sum of US $50 million.
The speculation has emerged due to Gribkowsky's formation of a private charity foundation in Austria called Sonnenschein Privatstiftung, raising suspicions about how he made his fortune.
German media reports said the Suddeutsche Zeitung confronted him about the source of the money but Gribkowsky gave "no plausible explanation".
The same reports refer to BayernLB's purchase of 50 per cent of the Austrian bank Hypo Group Alpe Adria for 1.63 billion euros in 2007, and the subsequent re-sale for one euro and nationalization to avoid a collapse.
Gribkowsky was questioned by prosecutors about his involvement in the collapse in 2010, and also his personal financial situation.