The German bank at the centre of claims that Bernie Ecclestone bribed one of its officials to deliberately undervalue the price of F1 shares is expected to launch its own legal case against the F1 supremo.

BayernLB sold its 47 per cent shareholding to private equity giant CVC in 2005, but claims have since emerged that Ecclestone engineered a lower price for the stock in order to ensure that CVC - which had promised to retain him at the head of the sport - went through with the deal.

The Briton is accused of having bribed Bayern's chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky to ensure that the share price was undervalued, and therefore more attractive to CVC, but has always denied that that was the case, insisting that a $44m payment to the German was separate to the share sale and the result of being blackmailed over his personal tax affairs. A Munich court jailed Gribkowsky on charges of bribery and tax evasion last year, encouraging others to bring legal cases against Ecclestone.

The 83-year old currently finds himself in London's High Court facing a $100m damages claim from Constantin Medien which, having held an interest in Bayern's F1 stake, claims that it was denied a ten per cent cut of the proceeds when the selling price fell short of the $1.1bn which would invoke a clause in its agreement.

Now it has emerged that, as well as a pending case in Germany and potential copycat scenario in Switzerland, Ecclestone could be the target of a $400m damages claim from Bayern itself, as the bank presses ahead with action first mooted over a year ago.

"We can confirm that BayernLB is working at high speed on civil charges against Mr Ecclestone and expects to file suit against him in the High Court in London in January 2014," a company spokesman told Reuters.

While the long-term ramifications of the various cases could jeopardise not only plans to float F1 on the Singapore stock market, but also Ecclestone's position at the head of the sport - CVC has said that it is monitoring the situation closely and would not hesitate to dispense with the Briton if he is found guilty - Britain's Guardian newspaper reports that the judge overseeing the current Constantin claim has suggested that there are grounds to doubt that Ecclestone's payment to Gribkowsky was indeed a bribe.

In one of several interruptions to the prosecuting counsel's closing argument, Mr Justice Newey told the court he found 'the idea of a bribe being paid to get rid of the banks more plausible than the idea of a bribe being paid to undertake an arrangement under which shares were sold at an undervalue'.

And, while the prosecutors pointed to 'evidence' submitted by Ecclestone's team that suggested CVC had initially offered a total of $1bn for a cut of the F1 pie, including but not exclusively Bayern's stake, the defence pointed out that the bank had been more than happy to accept a deal that valued its shares at $765m having previously valued the written down stake at $365.6m.

It is interesting to note that Bayern is viewing a January date for the possible commencement of its claim, given that the ruling in Constantin's case is due at that time. It could be that the outcome of the current hearing has a direct bearing on whether the bank - and the separate threats in Germany and Switzerland - presses ahead with their pursuit of Ecclestone.



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