JUNE 28, 2012
Does Gribkowsky jail term have implications for Ecclestone and Mercedes?
With former Bayern Landesbank chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for receiving bribes, breach of fiduciary trust and tax evasion surrrounding the sale of F1 to CVC Capital Partners in 2005, the Munich court's verdict could have deeper implications for Bernie Ecclestone and F1.
German prosecutors alleged that Gribkowsky took $44m in bribes to ensure that the sale of a 48% stake in F1 owned by German banks after the collapse of the Kirch media empire, went ahead, in line with Ecclestone's wishes.
In delivering his verdict and sentence, judge Peter Noll labelled Ecclestone the 'driving force' behind the payments, but with Gribkowsky showing 'high criminal energy.'
Summarising his case, prosecutor Christophe Rodler also claimed that Ecclestone was an accomplice in an act of bribery and not a victim of extortion. Giving evidence at the Gribkowsky trial last year, Ecclestone claimed that he had been 'shaken down' and the payments were intended to prevent Gribkowsky making claims to the UK tax authorities about his alleged involvement with a family trust, that could have left the 81-year-old billionaire exposed to a huge tax bill.
It now remains to be seen whether the German prosecutors will go after F1's commercial supremo.
Ecclestone told Reuters: "I think Mr Gribkowsky told them what he thought he had to tell them. I don't think I should (face further action) but you don't know, do you?"
Elsewhere in Germany,stories are emerging that senior management factions within Mercedes have recommended an F1 withdrawal due to the company policy of distancing itself from any hint of corrupt practice.
Thus far, Mercedes has not signed up to any agreement surrounding a new Concorde Agreement that will govern F1 between 2013 and 2020. It has hitherto been assumed that the reason for that is the company's dissatisfaction with the terms on offer, but the situation could now be more complex. Mercedes, of course, supplies 25% of the F1 grid with engines.