The head of Formula One, major domo Bernie Ecclestone, finally has his bribery trial underway. When last we left, Ecclestone appeared to be in trouble when this past July, he was indicted by a German court on bribery charges in a case relating to the series’ sale several years ago.
The civil action is in London courts where Ecclestone is being sued by former stakeholder in F1, Constantin Medien AG, while the German courts await the outcome for any additional information that may be forthcoming. Constantin, a German marketing business associated with sports and entertainment, is suing Eccelstone for $171 million.
Essentially, this is a civil case – but there are also criminal complaints. With the trial now ongoing, the question remains as to what could happen to the 83 year old Brit if he should be found guilty. Would he be able to continue as F1’s supremo?
After a long delay, German prosecutors finally charged the billionaire after an extensive investigation into the sale and transfer of F1 back in 2006. At the base of the indictment, Ecclestone is said to have paid a $44 million bribe to Gerhard Gribkowsky, who currently is serving eight-and-a-half years in prison for receiving the bribe. Gribkowsky was an executive with Bavarian State Bank of Germany and used his position in the bank to help maneuver the financial institution’s stake in F1 through private equity and investment firm CVC Capital Partners, which Ecclestone was working with. The argument being F1 was undersold to benefit Ecclestone and his partners. That’s where Constantin has built the foundation of their civil action.
Ecclestone’s problem is that the civil matter may well lead to more civil suits along with more criminal complaints. The Munich courts are likely awaiting the civil suit, anticipating further information pertinent to their case.
Ecclestone agrees he paid Gribkowski but says it wasn’t a bribe. The F1 supremo states that Gribkowski threatened the deal if he didn’t make the payment, so Ecclestone allegedly paid him off so as not to ruin the ownership transfer of Formula One.
Regardless of any fines or retributions he may have to pay in the civil suit, Ecclestone could be looking at anywhere from a few months all the way to 10 years in prison for the bribery charges. Ecclestone has been in charge of F1 for approximately four decades. The future of F1 may be in the hands of the courts.
Source: The Telegraph
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