Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Banker 'took bribes from F1 boss'

Bernie Ecclestone

Prosecutors in Munich have charged a former executive at a German bank for allegedly taking bribes from Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in connection with the 2006 sale of the bank's stake in F1.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former member of the management board at the regional bank BayernLB, was in charge of managing the sale of BayernLB's stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

Prosecutors claim Gribkowsky sold the stake without updating its valuation in return for bribes disguised as consulting contracts. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Ecclestone, 80, has met prosecutors over the case and says he is confident he will be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Prosecutor's spokeswoman Barbara Stockinger said Gribkowsky personally took £27.5 million in payments from the "Formula 1 CEO", identified in a news release as "Bernard E", and an affiliated company described variously as Bambino Trust and Bambino Holding. The release did not specify a motive for paying the money.

The prosecutors said Gribkowsky later used BayernLB's funds to pay Mr Ecclestone a commission of £25.8 million and added a further agreement for £15.6 million to Bambino Trust. A court must now decide whether Gribkowsky will stand trial on the charges.

Prosecutors said the money was disguised as payments to an Austrian company set up by Gribkowsky under bogus consulting contracts and paid through shell companies with addresses in Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands. They say Gribkowsky failed to pay German taxes on the money.

BayernLB, or Bayerische Landesbank, held a 48% stake in SLEC Holdings, which owned the companies that run the F1 racing series. At the time, 25% was owned by the family trust of Ecclestone, the long-time commercial head of F1, and the remainder was held by other banks.

CVC bought Mr Ecclestone's and the BayernLB's stakes and regrouped them in a firm named Alpha Prema, becoming the Formula One's majority shareholder. The price of the deal has not been disclosed. CVC has said it had no knowledge of any payments to Gribkowsky.

Gribkowsky was BayernLB's chief risk officer and a member of the board between 2003 and 2008.

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