Contrary to the latest media speculation, German prosecutors have not yet decided to charge Bernie Ecclestone with bribery.
The German news magazine Focus had claimed the Munich public office had, after a long investigation, finally made the decision to pursue the F1 chief executive officially.
Former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who accepted Ecclestone’s millions in alleged bribes, is already in jail.
Focus said recent efforts to broker a ‘deal’ between Ecclestone and the prosecutors, whereby the 82-year-old Briton is charged but given only a suspended sentence if he pays back the millions, had failed.
But chief prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch would not confirm the ‘deal’ talks, and he further told DPA news agency that a decision about whether Ecclestone will be charged is still yet to be taken.
Jailed Gerhard Gribkowsky may not have made headlines for some time, but the F1 corruption scandal is still making trouble for Bernie Ecclestone.
The Suddeutsche newspaper reports that German bank and former F1 shareholder BayernLB is looking into whether it can recover millions from the sport’s chief executive. The push for damages could follow Gribkowsky’s claim that Ecclestone only received millions in the form of a BayernLB commission as the direct result of bribery.
“We have requested access to the files,” a spokesman for the bank is quoted as saying, referring to the prosecution’s case.
Suddeutsche said the damages could amount to EUR 41 million. Briton Ecclestone’s lawyers have reportedly filed an application to block the request, leaving it to a Munich court to decide.
Bernie Ecclestone has denied skipping last weekend’s German grand prix because he was afraid of being arrested.
The F1 chief executive’s familiar black motor home was in the Hockenheim paddock all weekend, but the 81-year-old Briton did not show, amid rumours he might have been swept into custody by German police amid the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption affair. Ecclestone denies he feared jail.
“I had a meeting in London with people from the Olympic Committee and also about television in America,” he told the German newspaper Bild on Thursday. “I couldn’t take them with me to Hockenheim,” he insisted. “Also, my daughter Tamara had some personal problems I had to help with, but I don’t want to go into that.”
He denies being tipped off about a German plot to arrest him.
“No. No one told me that I would be arrested.”
But with Gribkowsky now in jail for receiving Ecclestone’s bribes, surely the F1 supremo fears being arrested in Germany sooner or later.
“I would assume that the German authorities would tell me something beforehand,” Ecclestone said. “Probably they’d act differently if someone has committed a murder or if he is a terrorist.”
Ecclestone said he could fly in to Germany soon.
“I’m not sure when, but it could be very soon. I want to meet the people from the Nurburgring. We want to see if we can help them.”
Convicted former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has lodged an appeal against the Munich court’s ruling, according to media reports.
The 54-year-old German was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for receiving millions in bribes from Bernie Ecclestone, raising the prospect that F1’s high-profile chief executive could also be pursued. But Gribkowsky’s lawyer told Bloomberg news agency on Wednesday that they are appealing, and may also seek his release from custody on bail.
The lawyer, Daniel Amelung, said a new verdict is unlikely until 2013.
German news agency DAPD agreed that the appeals process in Germany takes several months.
Bernie Ecclestone has issued his strongest defence yet amid continuing suggestions the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery affair could also claim the F1 supremo’s scalp.
81-year-old F1 chief executive Ecclestone said in no uncertain terms that the convicted former banker’s bribery claims are “wrong”.
“It’s false,” Ecclestone is quoted by the German newsmagazine Focus. “The court did what it needed to do … but the man is lying,” he insisted.
Ecclestone has said consistently he paid Gribkowsky the millions because he was being “shaken down” relating to his British tax affairs.
“I am a businessman,” said the Briton. “I am always weighing up between opportunity, risk and hassle.”
Although there are rumours some in the sport are nervous about the potential association with corruption, Ecclestone said his removal as F1’s chief executive would be counterproductive.
“For over 40 years,” said Ecclestone, his partners have “trusted my handshake”. “There are no corrupt practices in Formula One,” he insisted.
Ecclestone also denied the link between the scandal and F1’s delayed floatation, even if he admits the Gribkowsky situation has been “not very helpful”.
Gerhard Gribkowsky was on Wednesday sentenced to jail by a Munich court.
The guilty verdict could have serious implications for F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who admits to paying millions to the former BayernLB banker.
Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for crimes including bribery, for the $44 million received from Ecclestone.
In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, the German prosecutors described Ecclestone as an “accomplice”, not a victim of extortion as claimed by the 81-year-old Briton.
German prosecutors on Wednesday appeared likely to press ahead with a corruption case against Bernie Ecclestone.
Until now, the F1 chief executive has been implicated in the Gerhard Gribkowsky scandal but only as the subject of an investigation into the money he paid to the jailed banker. Ecclestone, 81, has also appeared as a witness in the trial to give evidence protected by immunity, but on Wednesday it sounded likely he will be separately charged and pursued by the Munich prosecutors.
As prosecutor Christoph Rodler wrapped up Gribkowsky’s trial on Wednesday, he described Ecclestone as an “accomplice”. He said the diminutive Briton’s explanation of the $44 million payments to Gribkowsky was a “nebulous story”, arguing Ecclestone was “not the victim of an extortion but the accomplice in an act of bribery”.
According to the Financial Times, Rodler said Ecclestone had an “existential interest” in paying the money to Gribkowsky because his “life’s work” was at risk.
Ecclestone has not yet been charged.
F1’s bribery scandal could cost the sport the involvement of German carmaker Mercedes.
Mercedes, with its own Brackley based works team and also a major engine supplier, is watching the Gerhard Gribkowsky affair with particular attention, according to the business newspaper Handelsblatt. The report said the affair, and particularly the implication of F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, would have “serious consequences” with regards to Mercedes’ involvement in the sport.
Senior Daimler officials are reportedly very concerned that, in the event the corruption is proved, Mercedes’ continuing involvement would be disallowed due to the Stuttgart marque’s strict anti-corruption statutes. Namely, Daimler “does not tolerate the immoral or corrupt practices of its employees or its business partners”, the statutes read.
Laurenz Schmitt, a corporate lawyer for Linklaters in Munich, confirmed that “Ecclestone’s bribery payments would fall under this company guideline”.
Another legal expert agrees that “If Ecclestone is charged with bribery, Daimler would have to withdraw from F1”.
A Mercedes spokesperson told Bild newspaper: “We welcome the evaluation of the recent allegations in formula one and now await the clarification of the authorities.”
DPA news agency said closing arguments in the Gribkowsky trial are being given now.
The reinvigorated F1 bribery affair has raised questions not only about the viability of the sport’s planned floatation, but about whether Bernie Ecclestone will lose his job or even face jail in Germany.
“Will Ecclestone go to Hockenheim?” the Die Welt newspaper, obviously musing a potential arrest now that former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has confirmed the F1 chief executive’s payments to him were indeed bribes, wondered. Gribkowsky faces years in jail, and so the question now is whether the Munich prosecutors will also go after 81-year-old Ecclestone.
“I’ll wait and see how things develop,” the Briton told Welt. “Now I’m getting on with my job.”
Prosecutor spokesman Thomas Steinkraus-Koch told Bild newspaper: “Since 2011 an investigation of Bernie Ecclestone has been underway.
“For now we are now awaiting the court’s verdict in the trial of Gerhard Gribkowsky.”
That judgement is expected within days. German lawyer Sewarion Kirkitadze told Bild that Ecclestone ultimately face a prison sentence of “up to ten years”.
“He should also expect the prosecutor to prepare an international arrest warrant and an extradition request.”
For all the trouble, which Ecclestone said is based on Gribkowsky’s new lies to “save himself”, the diminutive Briton is threatening to sue.
“We will see if I take action against Gribkowsky. It’s early days, let’s have a look,” Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.
The F1 supremo, who insisted he is “not at all” worried the affair threatens his job or the F1 floatation, told Bloomberg news agency: “I don’t know what they (the prosecutors) would charge me for.”
Bernie Ecclestone has hit back after German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky this week sensationally admitted he received millions in bribes from the F1 chief executive.
Gribkowsky recalled the diminutive Briton telling him that, “In Formula One, the practice is you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
German media reports said the former BayernLB risk officer also told the court that Ecclestone said he had the power to re-shuffle contracts so that the bank’s stake in the lucrative sport would be diluted. At the same time, Ecclestone reportedly told Gribkowsky that “If you help me to sell formula one, I will employ you as a consultant”.
Ecclestone, whose conduct amid the sport’s sale some years ago is also being probed by the Munich prosecutors, responded to Gribkowsky’s court admission by telling the Telegraph that the jailed banker is trying “to save himself”.
“I suppose he would say that,” the 81-year-old explained, “so maybe he gets seven years instead of 14 years. The poor guy has been banged up for 18 months. He would have said anything to save himself. He was going to be locked up whatever happens,” Ecclestone added.
In a separate Telegraph article by journalist Christian Sylt, Ecclestone said he was considering whether to take legal action against Gribkowsky.
Widespread media reports confirmed that Gribkowsky’s admission means he now faces a maximum of nine years in jail, rather than many more.
The judgement is expected next week.