Thursday 14 December 2017

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone tells court he never makes threats

Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone at the High Court in central London
Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone at the High Court in central London

Brian Farmer

MOTORSPORT boss Bernie Ecclestone told a High Court judge today that he did not make threats.

Mr Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula 1 Group, was giving evidence at a High Court trial in London after being accused of making a ''corrupt bargain'' to stay at the top of Formula 1 racing.

He has been accused of entering into a ''corrupt agreement'' with a banker eight years ago to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 group to a buyer chosen by him.

A German media company says it lost out as a result of the deal and has taken legal action against Mr Ecclestone.

But he says Constantin Medien's claim ''lacks any merit'' and he denies any conspiracy.

"I am not a person that threatens," he told Mr Justice Newey. "If I was going to do something, I would do. I wouldn't threaten."

Mr Ecclestone, who was giving evidence for a third day, has told the court that he paid Gerhard Gribkowsky - a senior official at a German bank - £10 million.

He said he made the payment because he was ''being shaken down'' by Dr Gribkowsky, who had insinuated that he would create difficulties with tax authorities.

Mr Ecclestone told the judge today that he did need Dr Gribkowsky's support and added: "He was desperately trying to do business with me. He wanted to leave the bank."

Philip Marshall QC, for Constantin, outlined allegations against Mr Ecclestone at the start of the trial on October 29.

He said the banker assisted Mr Ecclestone to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 Group to a ''purchaser chosen by Mr Ecclestone''.

Mr Marshall suggested that ''corrupt payments'' resulted in a sale of the bank's investment in a group of companies which owned lucrative commercial rights associated with Formula 1.

He said Mr Ecclestone benefited financially and the deal allowed him to retain a position with Formula 1.

Mr Marshall said Constantin had investment rights in the Formula 1 Group and lost out.

Lawyers representing Mr Ecclestone have outlined their case to the judge in written arguments and say the claim ''lacks any merit'' and ''is an artificial, manufactured complaint''.

The trial continues.


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