Bernie Ecclestone has finally confirmed reports he paid $40 million to jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.
But the F1 chief executive, who was officially named in the Munich prosecutors’ charges against Gribkowsky this week, denies it was a bribe, hinting instead that he was effectively blackmailed.
Ecclestone, 80, told the Daily Telegraph he was “threatened” by Gribkowsky who was warning of tax trouble for the diminutive Briton.
He said Gribkowsky was alleging irregularities with Ecclestone’s offshore family trust Bambino and “threatened that he was going to say that I was running it”.
Ecclestone added: “The taxation people in England at the time were in the middle of settling everything with the trust and the last thing you need is for them to start thinking something different.
“He (Gribkowsky) was shaking me down and I didn’t want to take a risk.”
Ecclestone said he asked his lawyers for advice about how to deal with Gribkowsky’s alleged threat.
“They said ‘I tell you what would happen, the (inland) Revenue would assess you and you would have to defend it, because you could defend it, and you would be three years in court and it would cost you a fortune. Better pay’,” said the F1 chief executive.
Ecclestone said he paid Gribkowsky through Mauritius and British Virgin Islands-based companies because “he wanted to be paid so it didn’t look like it came from me and didn’t look like it had come from England”.
And he said he has consistently denied making the payment at all until now because “the prosecutor had asked me not to say anything”.
Gribkowsky’s legal representative declined to comment.