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Ecclestone accused of corruption as High Court case gets underway

ESPN Staff
October 30, 2013 « Lauda 'trying everything' to keep Brawn at Mercedes | Sebastien Vettel: It's yet to sink in »
Bernie Ecclestone is facing accusations of being involved in a corrupt agreement with a German banker © Getty Images
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Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been accused of making a "corrupt agreement" as the first day of a High Court case got underway in London.

German media company Constantin Medien claims its shares in the Formula One Group were undervalued when they were sold in 2006 and is seeking about £90 million in damages from Ecclestone and three others defendants. On the opening day of the case Philip Marshall QC, representing Constantin Medien, told the court that "corrupt payments" had been made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky during the sale as Ecclestone sought to retain a "position with Formula One going forward". Gribkowsky, who is currently serving an eight-and-a-half year jail sentence in Germany after being convicted of breach of trust, tax evasion and bribery, is alleged to have received a payment of about £27 million around the time of the sale.

Ecclestone has consistently denied any wrongdoing relating to the sale of the shares and was not present at the opening day at the High Court. Robert Miles QC, representing Ecclestone, said: "The claim fails on each of its elements. There was no conspiracy, there was no intent to injure Constantin. Constantin has suffered no loss.

He added: "Mr Ecclestone agreed to a pay off because of the tax threats and insinuations which he had received from Dr Gribkowsky."

Ecclestone said earlier this year that he had only paid Gribkowsky because the German had threatened to blackmail him by making false claims about his tax affairs. The court case is expected to last several weeks, with Ecclestone due to appear next week as a witness.

Meanwhile, the affair is also being investigated by German prosecutors who have delayed a trial date until next year. A separate investigation has also been opened by Swiss prosecutors following a complaint by Constantin Medien.