Ecclestone accused of ‘$10 million’ bribe

Convicted German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, a key witness in the corruption trial of Bernie Ecclestone, told a court on Friday that the Formula One boss offered him a $10 million bribe in 2004.

Ecclestone accused of '$10 million' bribe
Ecclestone has been accused of offering a bribe in 2004. Photo: DPA

Questioned for several hours at the Munich hearing, Gribkowsky said the motoring magnate had offered him the multi-million dollar bribe in order to resolve a legal dispute linked to the sale of Formula One rights.

Gribkowsky was risk manager at BayernLB bank at the time, which was the biggest shareholder of Formula One but Bernie Ecclestone had a veto with a "golden share".

The German bank had decided to challenge that veto in court.

According to Gribkowsky's testimony, Ecclestone, in 2004, proposed during a telephone conversation to give Gribkowsky the money "to abandon the legal process".

Gribkowsky, on his first day of evidence, told the court that he informed his bosses and police about the offer, despite there never being an investigation into this latest allegation of bribery.

He also claimed that he was offered a second bribe of $80 million in Singapore, which appeared to take the court by surprise.

"And you are telling us this now, like this?" said Judge Peter Noll, who adjourned the hearing until next Tuesday.

Ecclestone, 83, is accused of paying Gribkowsky $44 million in 2006 and 2007 to ensure his continued grip on the motor sports empire he had built up over four decades.

Ecclestone, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a maximum jail term of 10 years if he is found guilty.

He admits making the $44 million payment not as a bribe but as hush money after a blackmail attempt.

Prosecutors charge that the money was a bribe meant to ensure BayernLB sold its shares to Ecclestone's preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners of Britain, now the sport's majority shareholder.

The German was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison in 2012 after being convicted of corruption in relation to the money.

It was the first day of testimony from Gribkowsky who is expected to give four days of evidence.

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F1 boss ‘trying’ to save German Grand Prix

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone hopes to keep the German Grand Prix on this season's calendar despite money problems at the tracks, he said in an interview published by Britain's Press Association on Tuesday.

F1 boss 'trying' to save German Grand Prix
Photo: DPA

The 84-year-old British business magnate appeared to rule out the possibility of the race happening in an email sent to a German newspaper on Monday in which he said it would not be "commercially viable". 

But he subsequently backtracked and said he would know by this weekend whether the race will take place or not.

Referring to Germany's two F1 circuits, Hockenheim and Nurburgring, Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula One group, said: "Basically we haven't a contract with either venue.

"We are trying to get something done, we are trying to help them. In the end, and God only knows why, the audience in Germany is lousy.

"I've no idea why it should be, because they've a German manufacturer in Mercedes who are constructors' champions, they had a driver in Sebastian (Vettel) who won four successive drivers' championships.

"But they have not been selling enough tickets to make it work. It's purely commercial, so I'm trying to be a little bit helpful to them.

"We're trying to rescue it, but I can't guarantee we will. We are doing our best, and maybe by this weekend we'll have an answer. I hope so." 

The German Grand Prix traditionally alternates between Hockenheim and Nurburgring and was due to take place at the latter this year, but the venue has been beset by financial difficulties.

"If we do something, it is looking like Hockenheim will probably be the most-likely venue," Ecclestone added.

"The bottom line is there is still a chance and we hope to know more by the weekend."

This year's race is scheduled to take place on July 17-19.