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Saturday 30 August 2014

Bernie Ecclestone not 'reliable or truthful' says judge in F1 case

Published 20/02/2014 | 11:23

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Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone was described as not "reliable or truthful" by a High Court judge on Thursday despite winning a legal fight with a German media company.

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Mr Justice Newey made criticisms as he ruled on a dispute between Mr Ecclestone, 83, and Constantin Medien at a High Court hearing in London.

Mr Ecclestone had been accused of entering into a ''corrupt agreement'' with a banker to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 Group to a buyer chosen by him.

Constantin Medien said it lost out as a result of the deal and wanted tens of millions of pounds in compensation.

Mr Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula 1 Group, said Constantin Medien's claim ''lacked any merit'' and denied any conspiracy.

The judge dismissed the claim on Thursday but he concluded that payments made were a "bribe".

He said they were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a "corrupt agreement" with the banker in 2005.

But he said no loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused and therefore the company's claim failed.

The judge heard that Constantin wanted around £80million damages.

Lawyers for Constantin Medien said payments totalling about £27million were made to Gerhard Gribkowsky - who was a ''senior ranking official'' at a German bank - at the instigation of Mr Ecclestone.

And they said a ''corrupt arrangement'' was entered into between Mr Ecclestone and Dr Gribkowsky in 2005.

Mr Ecclestone gave a different version of events.

He told the judge that he paid Dr Gribkowsky £10million because the banker insinuated that he would create difficulties with tax authorities.

The judge heard evidence at a trial in London last year and handed down a ruling on Thursday.

Mr Ecclestone, who is facing trial in Germany later this year after being accused of bribery - those allegations also centre around claims relating to Dr Gribkowsky - was not at Thursday's hearing.

"Even ... making allowances for the lapse of time and Mr Ecclestone's age, I am afraid that I find it impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness," said Mr Justice Newey, in a written ruling.

"The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005."

But the judge added: "No loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr Gribkowsky. That fact is fatal to the claim."

Mr Justice Newey said Mr Ecclestone had spoken of being "shaken down" by Dr Gribkowsky. But the judge said evidence tended to undermine the claim, and added that bribery was "far more probable".

The judge said evidence given by Mr Ecclestone contained inconsistencies and was "unsatisfactory".

Constantin said it would appeal.

"The judge ruled against Constantin essentially on technical grounds (including extremely complicated questions of German law which is the governing law in the case) and Constantin will be appealing those findings," said lawyer Keith Oliver, head of commercial fraud litigation at Peters and Peters Solicitors.

"The judge found it impossible to regard Bernie Ecclestone as a reliable or truthful witness."

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