Ecclestone again denies ‘bribe’ to jailed German banker

I'm telling you Gribkowsky blackmailed me

New details of bribery allegations against Bernie Ecclestone over the sale of Formula One to the private equity firm CVC have been given by prosecutors in Germany.

He allegedly paid money to a banker involved in the deal so that the sale would go through and he would be retained as F1's chief executive, according to a 256-page indictment.

Mr. Ecclestone and his offshore Bambino family trust are accused of paying a $44m bribe in 2006 to Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former chief risk officer of German bank BayernLB, which owned a 47.2pc stake in F1.

Mr. Ecclestone denies that it was a bribe and says that Mr. Gribkowsky threatened to tell HM Revenue & Customs that he controlled the trust if the $44m was not paid.

As Mr. Ecclestone is a UK resident, he would be liable to pay tax on the $4bn in the trust if he was found to be in control of it – a claim he strongly denies. Mr. Ecclestone says he paid Mr. Gribkowsky because his false allegations would have triggered a lengthy and costly investigation.

Mr. Gribkowsky is now serving a jail sentence after being found guilty in Germany of tax evasion and bribery in connection with the F1 deal. In June, Mr. Ecclestone was separately indicted on bribery charges.

The indictment acknowledges that "Gribkowsky endeavored to create pressure against Bambino and the accused by repeatedly insinuating that the accused was effectively in charge of the trust".

It adds that "this did not, however, present a real threat for separate tax treatment of the accused and the Bambino Trust on the part of the British tax authorities, since Dr Gribkowsky and BayernLB had no specific proof of any such connection".

Mr. Ecclestone says that proof would not have been needed as HMRC has to investigate any tip-off, particularly if it comes from a company insider such as Mr. Gribkowsky.

The indictment is not clear about when Mr. Ecclestone allegedly bribed Mr. Gribkowsky, as it claims that they came to an agreement "in April/May 2005." However, Mr. Ecclestone's lawyer, Sven Thomas, says that there is no record of this meeting taking place.

The indictment alleges that Mr. Ecclestone paid the bribe to Mr. Gribkowsky even though he did not have the power to approve the sale to CVC.

It states that CVC co-founder, Donald Mackenzie, "had tentatively proposed an enterprise value of $1bn, which would have resulted in a purchase price of approx. $460m million for the interest held by BayernLB". According to the indictment, Mr. Ecclestone encouraged CVC to pay more as he allegedly "made it clear to CVC's representative, Mr. Mackenzie, that the purchase offer should be based on an enterprise value of $2bn which, in terms of the interest held by BayernLB, represented a purchase price of almost $1bn".

Mr. Ecclestone's lawyers have until September to respond and a judge will then decide if a trial is needed. London Telegraph

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