In court testimony today, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said that his multi-million dollar payment to jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was meant to keep him silent and not to pave the way for the sale of a major stake in Formula One.
Ecclestone has continuously maintained that his payment to Gribkowsky was made because the banker, formerly a chief risk officer for the BayernLB group, threatened to make false claims to British authorities over his tax affairs that could have endangered his fortune.
Today in Munich, Ecclestone maintained that stance in his testimony.
“I was a little sarcastic when I asked, ‘Would 50 million help you?’,” Ecclestone said of a conversation with Gribkowsky according to Reuters – adding that “it was the cheapest insurance policy I have ever seen.”
Ecclestone faces a 10-year jail term if found guilty in his ongoing bribery trial.
He is accused of making a $44 million payment to Gribkowsky in order to make sure private equity fund CVC earned BayernLB’s former stake in F1; CVC became F1’s largest shareholder in 2006.
Reuters continues on to say that part of the prosecution’s case against Ecclestone rests on their allegation that he knowingly bribed a public servant, since BayernLB is a state-owned entity.
However, a former Bavarian finance minister and BayernLB board member told the court today that Ecclestone may not have known that the bank was state-owned.
This past May, Gribkowsky – who is in the middle of a jail term of eight and a half years for accepting the bribe – testified against Ecclestone, saying that the offer clearly came from him.
“I had a carrot dangled in front of me. I grabbed the carrot,” said Gribkowsky, who also admitted to spreading rumors about Ecclestone’s tax status but only for “nuisance value” since he didn’t have concrete information.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Gribkowsky will testify again during the trial, which is expected to go into the fall. It is currently proceeding on a schedule of two days per week in order to accommodate Ecclestone’s day-to-day running of F1.