F1 fraud case opens in Munich
MUNICH, Germany - A German former banker charged with selling Formula 1 rights in return for a bribe with the involvement of the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said his decision saved million of euros for German taxpayers.
His lawyer Rainer Buessow said on the on the first day of the trial today: "The fact is that our client defused a bomb."
BERNIE SAYS 'NO BRIBE'
Former Bayern banker Gerhard Gribkowsky is charged with bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion involving the sale of the F1 rights. The deal cost the bank 66-million euros but the accused allegedly pocketed about 32-million euros as part of a bribe but his lawyer argued his efficient actions had saved hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money.
The trial of the former executive follows his arrest in January, 2011 and is expected to run for several months. He has been in custody for some months.
Ecclestone, the 80-year-old Briton who runs F1, is expected to be the key witness. He has denied any involvement and has said he did not bribe the banker.
Bayern had a stake in F1 up to 2006, along with JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Ecclestone's family trust. The banks acquired a 75% stake in F1 holding company SLEC after the collapse of Germany's Kirch media group, which had borrowed $1.6-billion from them.
Bayern was Kirch's biggest creditor.
SLEC was sold to the current F1 rights holders, private equity firm CVC, in 2006 with Ecclestone remaining hands-on in running the business.