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Ecclestone ready to appear in ‘amusing’ bribery trial
14 January 2013
Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that he would be prepared to appear in court when Constantin Medien brings its case against him and disgraced banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to court later this year.
Ecclestone says he is 'amused' by the prospect of giving his side of the story after being accused of conspiring with Gribkowsky to undervalue F1 when the rights to the sport went on the market in 2006. Constantin Medien believes that that helped current owner CVC secure a deal for $1.7bn despite interest from other parties.
Ecclestone is also accused of bribing Gribkowsky to help him steer the sale in CVC's direction, although the octogenarian insists that the $44m that is alleged to have changed hands was paid to prevent Gribkowsky revealing details of his affairs to tax and customs officials. Gribkowsky, erstwhile chief risk officer of German bank BayernLB, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for corruption, breach of trust and tax evasion in June 2012, having persuaded his employer to sell a 47 per cent holding in F1 holding company SLEC to CVC.
German prosecutors hearing the Gribkowsky trial still consider the pay-off from Ecclestone a bribe, alleging that CVC's agreement to keep him as the sport's chief executive had made it the Briton's preferred choice of buyer. Ecclestone has not been charged with any offence in Germany, but now faces a civil action in the UK courts as
Constantin Medien believes BayernLB's stake was worth $2.8bn but was sold for far less than that after Gribkowsky eschewed other bidders in favour of CVC.
Although Constantin had already off-loaded its own stake in F1 to BayernLB, there was a profit share agreement attached to the deal but, when BayernLB sold up to CVC, the reportedly low value it received for its shares had a knock-on effect for Constantin, which claims it lost around $170m.
Ecclestone, however, believes that the lawsuit is the doing of Constantin shareholder and board member Dieter Hahn, and has a personal edge.
"I'm prepared to give evidence in court and there will be a few others [who do so] as well," Ecclestone was quoted by Britain's Daily Telegraph
newspaper, "I wish they would bring it forward. It's going to be amusing.
"This is a case where [Hahn] is saying, because of the actions that allegedly took place, he lost money. His problem is [that] people from the bank said the shares weren't
sold cheap... In the end, CVC gave a very good price for the shares."
Ecclestone is also confident of coming out on the right side of what is expected to be a five-week hearing, claiming to have already turned down an offer to settle out of court.
"All this is about finding a way to get money, it is as simple as that,” he continued, “Dieter Hahn had some intermediary, who is a friend of ours, talk to me about 'you know you should settle, you don't want to go to court'. I'm not settling. The judge will settle the case."