London: Bernie Ecclestone faces an anxious wait to discover if he is to be charged by German authorities after a banker was found guilty in a Munich court of taking bribes from the Formula One supremo.
Gerhard Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison after admitting to receiving £28 million (Dh160 million) in corrupt payments during the sale of German bank BayernLB’s stake in F1 to CVC Capital Partners in 2005.
German prosecutors argued the money was paid to Gribkowsky, the former chief risk officer of Bayern LB, to ensure the sale went through.
Summing up the prosecutors’ case, Christoph Rodler said Ecclestone’s “life's work” in F1 could have been in jeopardy had CVC not purchased Bayern LB’s 48 per cent stake.
Giving evidence in the trial last year, Ecclestone, 81, said he had paid Gribkowsky because he was being blackmailed by the banker over his tax affairs, although he claimed to have only handed over around £10 million.
The threat centred on what Ecclestone insists is a false 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 billions.
That argument was rejected by Rodler, who said in court on Tuesday 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.
Ecclestone, the chief executive of F1, remains under investigation by the German authorities but has yet to be charged with any offence.
He said of the verdict: “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?”
Reports in Germany claim that Mercedes, whose engines power the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, could pull out of the sport should he be found guilty of bribery as Daimler, their parent company, have a policy of not dealing with criminals.