Motor racing — TrialFriday, April 25, 2014
F1 boss Ecclestone denies bribery charge
Claims he was shaken down and blackmailed
Bernie Ecclestone, CEO and president of Formula 1 for four decades, gave his defence against accusations that claim he bribed a German banker US$45 million in order to maintain complete control of his empire.
MUNICH — The President and CEO of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone, may be at the end of his tenure, as he faces bribery and incitement of trust charges that could land him up to 10 years in prison. The 83-year-old boss denies any wrongdoing and repeatedly claimes he has been “shaken down.”
Ecclestone, who has run Formula 1 for nearly 40 years, looked calm and smiled as he was accompanied by a translator in a Munich State court yesterday.
The bribery charges, which apparently amassed to the sum of roughly US$45 million dollars, was given to German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, in order to facilitate the sale of Bayern Landesbank’s stake in Formula 1. In return for the assumed bribe, Ecclestone was supposedly able to choose the desired buyer of the stake — keeping him safely in charge of his Formula 1 empire. In addition to maintaining his leadership authorities, the bribe is also thought to have kept him in charge of commercial rights, sponsorships, and television broadcast contracts.
Gribkowsky, the German banker responsible for accepting the US$45 million dollar bribe, is already serving an eight and a half year sentence for tax evasion, corruption, and breach of trust. The same judge who sentenced Gribkowsky is presiding over Ecclestone.
However, Ecclestone and his legal team issued their statement denying any such involvement in the matter: “The alleged bribery never happened. The prosecution’s claims are based on statements by Dr. Gribkowsky, which are wrong, misleading and not conclusive.” The legal team went on to state that Ecclestone was essentially the victim of blackmail, in which Ecclestone is claiming that Gribkowsky had been threatening to release false tax documents about him for years.
Despite the hostile environment, however, Ecclestone seems rather calm and unaffected saying yesterday, “I’m confident the sun is shining” and continued to maintain his sense of humour throughout the hearings, which are expected to last approximately twenty six days, through the 250 page indicment against him that was the product of nearly a two year investigation.
As the trial continues, Ecclestone has reportedly taken a reduced role for the first time in 40 years of leading the Formula 1 World, which he grew to an international phenomenon that now has approximately 450 million viewers.
The eclectic British business tycoon is said to be worth near US$4.8 billion through his various ventures surrounding the sport.