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2014-07-16 08:23

IN A CORNER: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has told a court in Germany that the multi-million dollar payment to jailed jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowskyto was to buy his silence. Image: AFP/ Kerstin Joensson.


MUNICH, Germany - Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone told a court on Tuesday (July 15 2014) that a multi-million dollar payment to jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowskyto was meant to buy the man's silence and not linked to the sale of Formula 1.

Giving detailed evidence for the first time in his bribery trial, Ecclestone repeated earlier statements that the payment to the former BayernLB chief risk officer was an insurance policy after the German put him under pressure over his tax affairs.


"I was a little sarcastic when I asked would €50-million (the equivalent of R742-million) help you?" Ecclestone said of a conversation with Gribkowsky.

"It was the cheapest insurance policy I have ever seen," added the Briton, a billionaire whose face is familiar to millions of motor racing fans around the world.

Ecclestone is accused of channelling the equivalent of R472-million to Gribkowsky in return for smoothing the sale of a major stake in F1 to private equity fund CVC, which became the largest shareholder in the sport in 2006.

The prosecution alleges that Ecclestone, 83, wanted CVC to take control as it meant he could stay on as chief executive of a business he had been instrumental in building.

Ecclestone, who denies wrongdoing, could face be jailed for 10 years and a conviction would end his long grip on the business. Part of the prosecution case rests on the accusation that Ecclestone knowingly bribed a public servant, as BayernLB is state-owned.

However a former state finance minister told the court Ecclestone would not necessarily have been aware of the bank's status. Kurt Faltlhauser, who was on the bank's board, said: "BayernLB appeared like any other commercial bank in its business dealings."

Ecclestone admits paying Gribkowsky but has maintained this was because the German was threatening to make false claims to the British authorities about his tax status that could have jeopardised his fortune.

The case began in April 2014 and is expected to run until at least October. It is being heard only two days each week to fit Ecclestone's commitments to F1. The next GP in the motor racing series will be held in Germany this weekend (July 18-20).

The Munich court jailed Gribkowsky for 8.5 years in 2012 for corruption over the payments from Ecclestone. BayernLB became a major shareholder in F1 following the collapse of the Kirch media group in 2002.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 German GP this weekend.

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