27 June 2012
F1 'bribes' banker jailed for eight years
German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has been handed an eight-year jail term for crimes including accepting bribes from F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.
Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former BayernLB chief risk officer, has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for various crimes of corruption, including tax evasion and accepting illegal payments, including one from F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.
Gribkowsky, who was involved in BayernLB's efforts to off-load its f1 shareholding in 2005, last week told a Munich court that he had received almost $44m in corrupt payments, including accepting a $10m sum from Ecclestone, allegedly to prevent him from revealing details of the Briton's tax arrangements.
"I allowed myself to be bribed," Gribkowsky admitted, backtracking on denials made eight months ago, before claiming that he had had 'a secret agreement' with Ecclestone to ensure that the 48 per cent holding would go to private equity giant CVC. In exchange, he would be paid a substantial sum and be offered a job in F1.
Gribkowsky was arrested in January last year and has been told that he could face up to nine years in prison if found guilty of wrongdoing. He has already served 18 months of his sentence while waiting for the hearing.
Ecclestone has always denied claims that his payment to Gribkowsky was to grease a deal that would ensure BayernLB's holding would go to CVC Capital Partners, which was in the process of becoming the sport's commercial rights holder.
"I have always said that we gave him money, but it was not for what he said," Ecclestone told Reuters at last weekend's European GP in Valencia, "He was shaking me down a bit and saying I had control of a family trust - which was not true. He was doing the best he could. I was a little bit stupid - normally I would have told him to get lost."
Ecclestone has been investigated as part of the case against Gribkowsky, but has not been charged in connection with it. However, he is certain to remain in the spotlight a little longer after a prosecutor alleged that he was 'an accomplice in corruption' while summing up ahead of the verdict.
Christoph Rodler, acting for the state against Gribkowsky, suggested that the court had heard evidence that Ecclestone 'was not the victim of extortion... but the accomplice in an act of bribery' and that he had an 'existential interest' in seeing CVC acquire BayernLB's stake in F1. It is claimed that Gribkowsky's payments came from Ecclestone's Bambino Holding's trust, which was also an F1 stakeholder at the time.
The UK Serious Fraud Office has been following the case in Germany and continues to consider whether there is any need to look deeper into Ecclestone's affairs. The 81-year old has revealed that HM Revenue and Customs had written to him within the past few months to confirm that they had been looking into his tax arrangements.
"After all this, I'd have been surprised if they didn't contact me," he admitted.
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