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Prosecutors charge banker over F1 bribes
- Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he paid German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky $44 million in 2005, but not as a bribe, as has been alleged by prosecutors in Munich, but because Gribkowsky threatened to cause him trouble with the Inland Revenue.
Gribkowksy, a former banker who organised BayernLB's sale of a 47% stake in F1, was charged with breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments earlier this week. The prosecutors alleged that Ecclestone paid Grobkowsky the money as a bribe but in an article in the Daily Telegraph, written by Formula Money editors Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid, Ecclestone said that was not the case.
Ecclestone claims Gribkowsky was alleging irregularities with his offshore family trust Bambino and "threatened that he was going to say that I was running it".
At the time Ecclestone was transferring shares in F1 to the trust because he did not want his wife at the time Slavica, who was a non-domicile, to pay tax on inheritance if anything happened to him. The F1 CEO added: "The taxation people in England at the time were in the middle of settling everything with the trust and the last thing you need is for them to start thinking something different. He [Gribkowsky] was shaking me down and I didn't want to take a risk."
He added that he consulted his lawyers on the issue and "they said, 'The Revenue would assess you, you would have to defend it and you would be three years in court and it would cost a fortune. Better pay."
The prosecutors also alleged that Ecclestone received payments from BayernLB in turn for the money he gave Gribkowksy with $41.4 million going to him personally and $25 million to Bambino. But Ecclestone said the payments weren't linked.
"I never bribed anybody or paid any money in connection with the company," he said. "I got 5% for the sale of the company. Bayerische Landesbank approved the sale and the commission, which was cheap. I should have got more because for that sort of deal, a bank would have charged a lot more. There were no secrets."
The prosecutors are still investigating Ecclestone, but he expects to cleared of any wrongdoing and has explained his version of events to them face-to-face.