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F1 boss Bernie's trial starts today

2014-04-24 08:18

IF THINGS GO WRONG? What would happen to Bernie Ecclestone's (that's him in the background) wife Fabiana Flosi if he loses his case and goes to jail? Image: AP/Hassan Ammar


  • Motorsport mogul up for bribery

  • Threat to Ecclestone's grip on motor sport
  • Briton says will fight to clear his name

MUNICH, Germany - Formula 1's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone will go on trial for bribery in Germany today (April 24 2014) in a case that could see the Briton's long dominance of the sport ended by a jail sentence.

He'll be there for 10 years if convicted.

Prosecutors in Munich have charged Ecclestone, 83, with bribing jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale eight years ago of a stake in F1 to private equity firm CVC.


Ecclestone, a former used-car salesman who became a billionaire by building the sport into a global money-spinner over four decades, denies wrongdoing and says he will fight to clear his name.

CVC remains the largest shareholder in F1, a business that generates annual revenues of more than $1.5-billion from its series of racesaround the world. Its co-chairman, Donald Mackenzie, has said Ecclestone would be fired if he was found guilty.

Hearings will be held only once or twice a week to allow Ecclestone to carry on the day-to-day running of F1. The case is scheduled to last at least until September 2014.

Despite his age, Ecclestone attends almost every GP and remains central to the sport's commercial success. He has always dismissed talk of retirement and there is no obvious replacement when he does finally quit or is forced out.


The uncertainty over Ecclestone's future makes it hard to revisit stalled efforts to launch an initial public offering of F1 after a planned listing in Singapore was abandoned because of turbulent markets two years earlier.

CVC paid about the equivalent of R8.7-billion to buy a 47% stake in F1 held by German bank BayernLB from 2002-2006.

The prosecution alleges that Ecclestone channelled the equivalent of R465-million to Gribkowsky, chief risk officer at BayernLB, for helping to ensure that CVC took control of the sport. It's alleged that Ecclestone favoured CVC because it was committed to keeping him on as chief executive.

Gribkowsky, expected to give evidence in this trial, was jailed for more than eight years in Munich in 2012 for tax evasion and corruption in relation to the payments.

Peter Noll, who presided over the Gribkowsky trial, will head the panel of judges hearing the case.

Ecclestone has said he paid Gribkowsky the equivalent R105-million but says that was to silence him because the German banker was threatening to make false claims about his tax affairs. Ecclestone denies the payments were linked to the CVC deal.

The arguments were rehearsed in a civil case in London late in 2013 when Ecclestone successfully defended a separate R1-billion damages claim over allegations he undervalued the business when it was sold to CVC.

British judge Guy Newey, although he dismissed the damages claim,  said he believed the payments from Ecclestone were a bribe and added that he found it impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 F1 season – fresh reports every day.

Read more on:    bernie ecclestone  |  germany  |  munich  |  motorsport  |  racing  |  f1

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