• Gerhard Gribkowsky trial

Ecclestone admits paying banker

ESPNF1 Staff
November 10, 2011 « Rosberg extends Mercedes contract | Barrichello positive over future »
Bernie Ecclestone is sworn in as a witness at the Gerhard Gribkowski trial © Getty Images

Bernie Ecclestone told a German court he stood to lose "in excess of £2 billion" if he was found to be misusing the tax-free family trust he set up for his ex-wife and daughters.

Speaking on his first day of evidence during the prosecution for corruption and tax evasion of banker Gerhard Gribkowsky by the German authorities, Ecclestone told the Munich court that payments of around $44 million were not bribes but were made to prevent Gribkowsky making vindictive claims to HM Revenue & Customs.

"Basically he [Gribkowsky] wanted some money to set up in business and my fear was, maybe he would do something, and I could keep him quiet and peaceful and friendly and not do silly things," Ecclestone admitted.

He said the risk was that if HM Revenue & Customs demanded tax on a trust he had set up to protect his wife's inheritance from UK tax he would lose more than £2 billion.

"I didn't know how they could have proved anything," he continued. "The fear was that they could have assessed me and it would have taken an awful long time of my life when I was completely in the right. Revenue would have assessed me as if I was controlling the trust and I would have had the burden to prove I was not involved."

Asked if Gribkowsky had made any direct threats, Ecclestone said he had not, but he explained: "It was like in those gangster films where they say 'I've seen your children go to school. I've seen them leave every day at 9.00am' and you know, unless you're really stupid, that they are serious. I thought maybe I could keep him [Gribkowsky] quiet by paying; stop him doing silly things."

Ecclestone paid about $23 million to Gribkowsky and the trust around $21 million.

He will face another day of questioning on Thursday. The case is expected to continue into the New Year.