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Ecclestone vows to 'come out fighting'

ESPNF1 Staff
March 17, 2011 « Schumacher confident he will be chasing podiums | »
Bernie Ecclestone is believed to be seeking assurances he will not be detained in Germany if he agrees to co-operate © Sutton Images

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly willing to co-operate with a German investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the sport's sale five years ago.

German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who helped oversee the sale of Formula One to CVC Capital Partners in 2006, was arrested at the start of the year over an alleged US$50 million payment into his offshore account.

Ecclestone is set to be called to Germany for questioning in relation to the charges facing Gribkowsky and although he is willing to assist in the investigation, the 80-year-old may seek assurances that he will not be detained in Germany if he agrees to co-operate.

"Bernie wants to come out fighting but he also wants to know what the prosecutors in Germany are likely to do," a source close to Ecclestone told the Times. "He believes CVC are right behind him and that co-operation is the right thing to do."

German police are trying to find out if Gribkowsky, who at the time of the sale was chairman of SLEC, the Formula One commercial rights holder, oversaw an under-value sale to CVC. The Times cites sources in the City as saying Ecclestone and Bambino, his family trust, received a $61 million finder's fee from Bayerische Landesbank for match-making the bank with CVC.

Gribkowsky, who faces charges of fraud, corruption and tax evasion, is currently being held in German prison while the prosecutor determines the source of the US$50million. Ecclestone has denied all knowledge of the payment and its source and besides speculation in the German media, he has not been implicated.

Gribkowsky was a key figure in the 2006 sale as both chairman of SLEC, the owners of F1's commercial rights, and risk manager at German bank BayernLB, who owned a stake in the sport before the sale to CVC.

CVC has conducted its own investigation into the matter which has reportedly cleared Ecclestone of any wrongdoing, although its findings have not been made public and the company has remained quiet on the matter other than to deny any knowledge of the alleged payment or the circumstances surrounding it.