Bernie Ecclestone has rubbished as 'absolute nonsense' accusations in the German media that he paid a $50 million bribe to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a banker who was formerly the head of F1 holding company SLEC but who was recently arrested on suspicion of corruption, tax fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
The investigation revolves around a deal five years ago in which F1 shares were sold from the bank BayernLB – represented by Gribkowsky – to CVC Capital Partners, the sport's current majority owners, and specifically 'two consultancy contracts totalling $50 million' that subsequently appeared in two accounts of Gribkowsky's in Austria.
CVC has already issued a statement denying all knowledge of the payment [see separate story – click here
], and now the sport's influential commercial rights-holder and Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone has responded to claims in German newspapers that the money came from his company in the form of a bribe, insisting he has no offshore bank accounts in either Mauritius or the Virgin Islands.
“What the German newspapers speculate or the prosecutors suspect is false,” the 80-year-old British billionaire told Bild-Zeitung
newspaper, conceding that whilst he knows Gribkowsky, he has 'nothing to do with these payments'. “It's absolute nonsense; I don't even know why I would have given him money.
“I don't know how he got it. As a member of the board of (F1 holding company) Delta Topco, he received only a small salary. I know, because I was the CEO. You should ask the banks involved who might have paid him – and if CVC says it has nothing to do with the payments, you can be absolutely sure they are telling the truth, I assure you.
“If German newspapers are writing that I have something to do with it, that's absolute nonsense and if necessary I will fight it in the courts.”