- By Region
The trial of a German banker accused of receiving $44m in bribes linked to the sale of Formula One has been told by a prosecutor summing up the case that Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the sport, was an “accomplice” in corruption.
The trial of Gerhard Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer of BayernLB, is drawing to a close in Munich after the banker last week admitted for the first time that he had received bribes. Mr Gribkowsky played a leading role when BayernLB sold its stake in F1 to CVC Capital Partners in 2005.
The court case has put Mr Ecclestone, the 81-year-old kingpin of the motorsport, in the spotlight amid efforts by him and CVC to float F1. Plans for an initial public offering of the business were shelved earlier this month amid financial market uncertainty.
Mr Ecclestone remains under investigation by German prosecutors but has not been charged in connection with the case.
In evidence to the trial last year Mr Ecclestone admitted he paid Mr Gribkowsky, saying it was because the banker was “shaking him down” over his tax affairs. The money was sent from offshore accounts to companies set up in Austria by Mr Gribkowsky, who was arrested last year.
Summing up prosecutors’ case on Wednesday, Christoph Rodler, a state prosecutor, said Mr Ecclestone’s was a “nebulous story” and that the court had heard evidence that the F1 chief was “not the victim of an extortion but the accomplice in an act of bribery”.
Mr Ecclestone had an “existential interest” in getting BayernLB out of F1, Mr Rodler said. The F1 chief executive’s “life’s work” could otherwise have been under threat, the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile Mr Gribkowsky wanted to leave “dusty” BayernLB and start a new career working with Mr Ecclestone in F1, Mr Rodler said.
The prosecutors say Mr Gribkowsky received payments from Mr Ecclestone and Bambino, a trust linked to Mr Ecclestone’s former wife, which was a part-owner of F1 at the time of the CVC sale.
Mr Gribkowsky is also accused of breach of trust for helping Mr Ecclestone receive more than $41m in commission from BayernLB in connection with the CVC deal. State prosecutors put the loss to the bank at $66m, with a further $25m being paid to Bambino.
As a board member at the state-owned bank Mr Gribkowsky must have known he could not accept payments offered in connection with the sale, according to prosecutors.
Mr Gribkowsky also evaded almost €15m of German taxes and should face 10 years and six months in prison, Mr Rodler said.
The hearing continues.