London: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has vehemently denied accusations of paying bribes of over 28 million pounds to a German banker for the Formula One sale in 2006.
Ecclestone’s position was the subject of renewed speculation on after the German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, admitted his guilt in a Munich courtroom, that he took bribes from Ecclestone in exchange for selling the motor racing group to private equity firm CVC in 2006.
According to sources, Ecclestone remained defiant, claiming that Gribkowsky, formerly the chief risk officer at state-owned bank BayernLB, was merely trying “to save himself” and insisting once again that he has “nothing to hide”.
“I didn’t tell him that he must sell to CVC. How can I say to him that he must do something? The only thing I said to Gribkowsky is if I sell the shares I want commission. Whoever you sell to I don’t care,” he clarified.
However, it is unclear what impact the latest twist, in what has been called Germany’s biggest post-War corruption trial, may have on the 81 year-old billionaire or on Formula One.
In 2006 Gribkowsky was a Chief Risk Officer for the state-owned German bank Bayern LB, which had inherited 47.2pc of F1 because it was a creditor of the Kirch media empire, F1’s holding company, which had collapsed in 2002, following which his position made him responsible for the sale of F1.
The prosecution claimed that the banker sold the F1 stake to CVC, on Ecclestone’s choice, at an undervalued price of 840 million euros rather than choosing the right buyer with better potential return for the German bank.
The banker now faces between seven and nine years in prison on the charges of corrupt payments as well as breach of trust and tax evasion.
Gribkowsky said that he had denied being bribed in the past because he was concerned about the future of F1, which has been preparing for a 9 billion dollar Singapore flotation later this year.