Formula One chief Ecclestone says bribery trial 'will be amusing'
Published 14/01/2013 | 05:00
BERNIE Ecclestone said he is prepared to testify in a trial at London's High Court in October concerning a $44m (€33m) bribe he allegedly paid to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to steer the sale of Formula One to the current owner, private equity firm CVC.
The case has been brought by Constantin Medien, a former part-owner of F1, which claims that Mr Ecclestone and Mr Gribkowsky conspired to undervalue F1 when it was sold to CVC in 2006 for $1.7bn.
"I'm prepared to give evidence in court and there will be a few others (who will do so) as well," said Mr Ecclestone. "I wish they would bring it forward. It's going to be amusing."
Mr Gribkowsky was chief risk officer of German bank BayernLB, which sold a 47.2pc stake in F1's parent company SLEC Holdings to CVC. Following the sale he received $44m from Mr Ecclestone and his family trust.
In June last year the former banker was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for corruption, breach of trust and tax evasion.
Prosecutors in Germany ruled that the money was paid to Mr Gribkowsky so that he would wave through the sale to CVC, allegedly Mr Ecclestone's preferred choice as it had agreed to retain him as F1's chief executive.
Mr Ecclestone has admitted paying the money but denied it was a bribe. He said Mr Gribko-wsky threatened to tip off revenue with false details about his tax affairs if the money was not paid.
Mr Ecclestone has not been charged with any wrongdoing in Germany but Constantin Medien has filed a civil suit against him in the UK. It claims it lost out because Mr Gribkowsky did not investigate other bidders since he had received a bribe to sell to CVC.
Mr Ecclestone denied F1 was undervalued and claimed the lawsuit was being driven by Constantin shareholder and board member Dieter Hahn.
Mr Ecclestone said he has been approached with an offer to settle the case but it has been rebuffed. Mr Constantin's representative, Keith Oliver of Peters & Peters, declined to comment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)