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Bernie plays down Briatore's role in banker payment

ESPNF1 Staff
August 3, 2011 « Montezemolo expects further victories | »
Bernie Ecclestone: "In no shape or form is Briatore involved in this" © Getty Images

Bernie Ecclestone has played down reports that Flavio Briatore was involved in paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowksy $45million in 2005 and has again denied any wrongdoing in the affair.

Last month, prosecutors in Germany charged Gribkowsky with breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments and named Ecclestone and his offshore family trust, Bambino, in their investigation.

The F1 supremo has had no charges brought against him and in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph explained that he paid Gribkowsky money after the banker made false allegations about his relationship with the Bambino trust, which could have created unnecessary complications with UK tax authorities.

Ecclestone said he was advised by his lawyers to pay Gribkowsky the money rather than having to defend his position in court over a long period of time, which would have delayed legitimate transfers to the trust that were necessary to ensure his wife at the time did not have to pay inheritance tax as a non-domicile should he die.

Earlier this week a German newspaper said Briatore was involved in the payments to Gribkowsky, but Ecclestone insists he was just doing a favour and that the prosecutors have always been fully aware of his role.

"In no shape or form is Briatore involved in this," Ecclestone told the Daily Express. "He did make a payment for me but only because I asked him after this man Gribkowsky threatened to make trouble for me and said he did not want the money paid direct from the UK. Briatore did me a favour and, far from being dragged into this, I told the German prosecutor about it. That is how his name has appeared."

Ecclestone said he was unmoved by the allegations over the past few months and it had not and would not affect his work as F1's CEO.

"I will be doing what I do best for a while yet - making good deals to keep a lot of people happy and well off in F1," he said. "Some might not want me to continue but I enjoy what I do. That is what I'll be judged on."

Ecclestone added: "I don't worry about this a bit. The end? Of course not."