F1 boss Ecclestone may face bribery charges

London: Bernie Ecclestone is in line to be charged by German authorities after a banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for accepting bribes from the Formula One chief.

Gribkowsky admitted to receiving 28 million pounds in corrupt payments during the sale of German bank BayernLB’s stake in F1 to CVC Capital Partners in 2005.

German prosecutors claimed the money was paid to Gribkowsky, the former chief risk officer of Bayern LB, to make certain the deal went through.

Christoph Rodler, who summed up prosecutes’ case, said Ecclestone’s life’s work in F1 could have been in danger if CVC had not bought Bayern LB’s 48 per cent stake.

Ecclestone had last year said he had paid Gribkowsky because the banker was blackmailing him over his tax affairs, although he claimed to have only handed over around 10 million pound.

The threat was centered on what Ecclestone insists is a bogus claim that he had control over a family trust operated by his then wife Slavica.

Ecclestone feared the resulting legal battle could last years and cost him a fortune. But this argument was rejected by Rodler, who said in court yesterday that Ecclestone was ‘not the victim of extortion but the accomplice in an act of bribery’.

Presiding judge Peter Noll described Ecclestone as the ‘driving force’ behind the payments.

“I think Mr Gribkowsky told them what he thought he had to tell them. I don’t think I should (face further action) but you don’t know, do you?” a daily quoted the judge, as saying.

Ecclestone, the chief executive of F1, remains under investigation by the German authorities but has yet to be charged with any offence.