Ecclestone pays £59m to end bribery trial

2014 F1 season

Bernie Ecclestone, 2013Bernie Ecclestone’s trial on charges of bribery has come to an end after he offered to pay £59m ($100m) as a settlement.

German law permits defendants to settle trials by payment in some situations, without being judged guilty or innocent.

It brings an end to a trial which lasted four months and threatened to leave Ecclestone with a prison sentence of up to ten years had he been found guilty.

Bayerische Landesbank claimed Ecclestone had bribed their employee Gerhard Gribkowsky with £27m ($44m) in 2006 to ensure Formula One was sold to its current owners CVC Capital Partners. They alleged he preferred CVC as a buyer because they would keep him in charge of the sport.

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the affair in June 2012.

Ecclestone stood down from his role as director of Formula One in January due to the imminent legal proceedings in Germany and a related case in Britain, which he won the following month.

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128 comments on Ecclestone pays £59m to end bribery trial

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  1. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 5th August 2014, 13:08

    Doesn’t even USA allow settlements to be made in matters of civil litigation?

    Just like we have the plea bargain in criminal cases?

    • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 13:25

      Not a civil case. It’s a criminal case. Paying your way out of a criminal case has no place in the modern world.

      • Pete (@repete86) said on 5th August 2014, 13:48

        Why? It is an financial crime, so why not deal with it financially? I don’t see what good locking up an eighty something year old does when the crime is practically victimless.

        • SteveR said on 5th August 2014, 14:01

          I think the real issue is that a $100 million fine is such a small percentage of Bernie’s net worth that it doesn’t even affect him. He is reported to be worth over $2 billion, so the fine is about 5% of his worth, about the interest income he will ‘earn’ this year. But I guess the rich are different than us.

        • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 5th August 2014, 14:03

          @repete86 I agree with the point about locking up an 80+ year old, especially one who hasn’t committed any kind of physical assault on anyone.

          However he should still be judged criminal or not and he is able to buy his way out of this.

          Justice should be applied equally. Be it a £50 or £50m fraud. You can bet your own £50 that the £50 offence will be lumbered with a criminal charge which they cannot buy their way out of.

          • kpcart said on 5th August 2014, 14:33

            he is over 80, but likely to live to 100.

          • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 16:18

            Long past 100 I fear: We all know blood-sucking vampires are immortal.

          • Klon (@klon) said on 6th August 2014, 18:19

            You can bet your own £50 that the £50 offence will be lumbered with a criminal charge which they cannot buy their way out of.

            Except they could. This is a clause of German law commonly used. Odds are, a lot more £50 frauds have “paid their way out” than £50m frauds.

        • tektonnic said on 5th August 2014, 15:11

          I keep reading this as ‘a good looking 80 year old’.

        • Russ said on 5th August 2014, 15:19

          Why because its uncivilized.He is a criminal and should be in jail,that is all.There are No mitigating circumstances.

          • Jimmy Hearn (@alebelly74) said on 5th August 2014, 16:01

            And who exactly is getting payed here. There must be some sort of breakdown where that money is going?

          • sonia luff (@sonia54) said on 6th August 2014, 19:07

            I agree ,80 yrs old or not the guy is a criminal and paying the money makes me think the guy is guilty of fraud.Bernie has committed fraud by paying the fine to stay out of prison.

        • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 16:09

          It isn’t a financial crime. It’s a trust crime. He has undermined one the basic principles of civilisation – the ability to trust officials of the institutions the govern us.

          If he had been found guilty, but given a suspended sentence – while I’m sure some would have been upset – at least the courts would have made a statement that this was not acceptable behaviour. He would have a criminal record, a modern day brand, that clearly says “be wary dealing with Bernie Ecclestone – he is not to be trusted”.

          If he had been found innocent, the courts would be saying “this man has done no (legal) wrong”. And the world would know that whatever reputation Bernie has was unchanged. (Yes, I know – a bit far fetched, but you get the idea).

          Instead, we have the message that if your wallet is large enough, then we don’t care what you get up to. There’s a rule for the rich, and a rule for the rest of us and they don’t even have the shame to attempt to hide it.

          In the absence of a innocent verdict, in my opinion Bernie is a lying, cheating, criminal, who should have nothing further to do with the sport that I love. And that the German justice system is not deserving of the name.

        • Zapski said on 5th August 2014, 16:54

          I would not say that it’s “victimless,” nor would the gentleman who’s spending 8 years in jail because he couldn’t afford to buy off the court.

        • Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 5th August 2014, 17:29

          The victim is a state in bribe cases, so it isn’t victimless, there is always a victim in criminal case.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 5th August 2014, 23:30

          F1 is the victim.

        • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 6th August 2014, 9:55

          @repete86 Why? It is an financial crime, so why not deal with it financially? I don’t see what good locking up an eighty something year old does when the crime is practically victimless.

          Deterrence. The whole point of anti-bribery laws is that they are aimed at stopping those with lots of money from acting unethically and using those resources to secure an outcome they could not otherwise have achieved.

          Allowing the perpetrator of bribery to then use his resources once again to achieve an outcome they could not otherwise have achieved (this time to avoid criminal liability) seems to be completely against this purpose.

        • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 7th August 2014, 6:24

          It is an financial crime, so why not deal with it financially?

          Paying a bribe to get away with paying a bribe isn’t exactly my idea of justice, but hey, maybe it’s just me.

      • skinner said on 5th August 2014, 16:36

        From what i understand he did not pay his way out exactly and it’s not a deal in the common sense.

        It’s all about “Paragraph 153a Strafprozessordnung”: There is a suspicion you are guilty but this probably cannot be proved, furthermore you are not accused of a capital crime. Then – if the interest of the people is preserved (read in this case: money) – the case will be closed. The amount of money to be paid relates to your wealth.

        The law is meant to speed up cases with first time offenders of small to medium crimes which are likely to result in a “not guilty” >> more time for capital crime cases. It is invoked more than a hundred thousand times per year in Germany.

        The judge found it hard to establish that Ecclestone was guilty of bribery.
        Not the least because Gribkowsky was a truly miserable witness.

        Additionally it appeared hard to prove that Ecclestone knew that Gribkowsky was a civil servant which was one of the main points that made it a criminal case.

        BE could have gone for the “not guilty” verdict if he was interested in spending a couple more months in court.

        He clearly was not.

        • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 18:45

          Simply more evidence that the justice system in Germany does not deserve to be called as such.

          Basically that reads if we don’t have enough evidence to convict you, then we’ll pressure you into giving us money.

          A disgusting rule, that has been exploited by a disgusting weasel.

          $100m to save a couple of months? He must have been DESPERATE not to wait around and hear that “not guilty”.

          • Sennas sandshoe said on 5th August 2014, 19:42

            I find the way you’re talking about an 80 year old man quite disgusting.

            Bloke’s a legend. You know who Bernie’s detractors within F1 are? The one’s he didn’t make millionaires…..Which is very few.

            You say what you just said to Frank Williams or Ron Dennis, or pretty much anyone involved down to the VERY well paid pit crews and mechanics……The response wouldn’t be pretty.

        • DaveW (@dmw) said on 5th August 2014, 22:10

          I agree it looks very fishy. But in fact it is rather rational—vernunftig—a prized quality of German public administration. Indeed, in the U.S. one often hears public outcry about the prosecution spending millions in attorney time and costs in a supposed “show trial” of some white collar criminal, “to make an example”….at least when the government loses or is losing the case.

        • David BR2 said on 6th August 2014, 0:47

          The judge found it hard to establish that Ecclestone was guilty of bribery.

          Despite the court admitting that all the evidence had not been heard yet!
          It reveals a corruptable legal system and has Ecclestone bought his way out of being properly tried because he has the money. Shame on him, even bigger shame on Germany.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 5th August 2014, 21:59

      Yes. But such pleas are normally organized before a trial, and may result in the prosecution putting lesser charges to the court or grand jury. They do not occur after a trial has begun—that is, a defendant is not given an opportunity review the work of the prosecutor and then name his price. He has to decide on a plea while the full possible weight of the law is over his head, and before he might see whether a lousy witness or somnescent jury has improved his chances.

  2. AmbroseRPM (@ambroserpm) said on 5th August 2014, 13:09

    The question is: Where does Bernie go from here?

    • devil's advocate said on 5th August 2014, 13:11

      Oblivion and mortality I would think?

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 13:13

      Probably straight back to normal, but it’ll hopefully force CVC to push for a) a succession plan and b) more transparent dealings on their behalf.

      They know this whole business has made F1 too much of a hot potato and they know they need to sell fairly soon – they’ll be looking to drive value back into the business (without costing them much, if any, money).

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 13:32

      Where does Bernie go from here? Straight toward a plan to claw back the 100 mill. Oh wait…he probably already had that in place before he offered to cut the cheque.

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 5th August 2014, 18:52

      He just essentially paid $150m or so to make billions. He goes to the bank, laughing all the way.

  3. Bernie Ecclestone’s Guide to Ending a Bribery Case:

    Bribe your way out.

  4. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 5th August 2014, 13:12

    A total mockery of a justice system.

    Buy yourself out of criminal charges? Utterly absurd.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 13:14

      I don’t think they were explicitly criminal charges. If they were, he wouldn’t have the settlement option.

    • Pete (@repete86) said on 5th August 2014, 13:54

      Meh. What good does locking an eighty something year old businessman for an economic crime that’s nearly victimless do? It seems to me that in such situations, reparations are the best form of punishment since it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.

      • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 5th August 2014, 14:02

        It seems to me that in such situations, reparations are the best form of punishment since it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.

        But it’s not reparations. He is not convicted, does not plead guilty, gets no criminal record. He just pays them to drop the matter.

        • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 14:25

          No, he doesn’t get a criminal record, but he’s also not been found innocent. This is a key issue for a business man.

          If questioned, all legal records show is that he paid money to stop himself being found guilty.

          • Loen (@loen) said on 6th August 2014, 11:12

            The stench coming from F1′s financial cess pit is disgusting.
            Even Arthur Daley would find it revolting.

      • KeithR (@lockup) said on 5th August 2014, 14:17

        It’s about deterrence and an honest culture. In an honest culture, dishonesty is supposed not to pay off.

        In my dreams this was supposed to be the honest West-European culture helping to clean up Bernie’s shady, corrupt F1.

        But the bad guys have won :(

        • Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 5th August 2014, 22:14

          He has too much money hehe. He could easily double or triple the amount and never feel the sting of it. It’s disgusting this can happen anywhere but western europe…

      • “Nearly victimless.” I doubt the man spending 8 years in jain for receiving his bribe will agree with that statement.

      • Rooney (@rojov123) said on 5th August 2014, 17:06

        @repete86

        hat good does locking an eighty something year old businessman for an economic crime that’s nearly victimless do?

        But there was a victim. Our beloved Formula 1. The silly gimmicks, the huge costs, ticket prices, circuits going broke, teams going broke…. Ecclestone caused these to happen. He single handedly bought a sport almost to a complete collapse.

  5. OllieJ (@olliej) said on 5th August 2014, 13:14

    Ecclestone pays bribe to end bribery trial

  6. Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 13:20

    Disgusting.

    As I understand it he hasn’t been found either guilty or innocent. As I’m sure he considers himself innocent, I’m going to balance it out and assume that he’s a lying, cheating crook.

  7. Girts (@girts) said on 5th August 2014, 13:21

    I do not believe that this is a fair outcome because a billionaire should lose a substantial part of his wealth if the alternative is spending several years in prison and losing $100m only makes Ecclestone slightly less rich. I think this case will only strengthen the people’s belief that “the rich guys get away”.

    Technically speaking, Ecclestone is innocent but it is clear that no one pays $100m just to be left in peace if he knows that he is innocent. So what will CVC Capital Partners do next?

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 5th August 2014, 13:28

      the rich guys get away

      Could not agree more…

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 14:13

      @girts Great point that nobody who is innocent would cut that cheque, which is why BE will continue to claim, when asked from the angle you bring up…why cut the cheque if you are innocent?… that he was in fact shaken down by Gribkowsky but just couldn’t prove it, nor could the court prove he wasn’t.

      • JimG (@jimg) said on 5th August 2014, 14:31

        @robbie: I suspect that Bernie’s explanation is that although he’s innocent, it’s worth $100M to him to avoid the stress of proving it. A cynical person might suggest that he’s let the trial go on this long (instead of making the offer when it started, if not before) to back up this story: he wanted to prove his innocence, but couldn’t handle the stress. So he’ll cough up his petty cash and get back to the relaxing shark tank that is F1 politics….

        But buying your way out of bribery charges… I’m going to file this one under “if you made it up nobody would believe you”!

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 14:26

      Technically speaking, Ecclestone is innocent…

      No, he isn’t.

      • Girts (@girts) said on 5th August 2014, 15:30

        @optimaximal I think it is a matter of interpretation. Ecclestone’s lawyers are saying that “the presumption of innocence in favour of Mr. Ecclestone remains intact”, while the court says that “there is no ruling on guilt or innocence of the defendant”. Anyway, I believe that Ecclestone will keep saying that he did nothing wrong and point out that the court could not prove anything either.

        • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 15:39

          @girts Of course, any attempt by him to flippantly say ‘the court could not prove anything’ will just be met with ‘well, you paid them not to prove anything’. Infact, the whole concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ only works on the premise of a black or white judgement – Bernie has paid out to avoid either.

          This is the nuance of the whole thing that we won’t really be able to get until it plays out – will it be enough to keep Bernie safe as an employable entity by CVC or someone to deal with by any corporate body as, whilst he’s not been found guilty, he hasn’t been found innocent either. Of course, the oligarchs and middle eastern rich folk won’t care about it, but what about the publicly-floated US/EU companies with anti-corruption statutes?

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 5th August 2014, 15:49

          Count me in with @optimaximal here @girts. Bernie is not innocent. He just put an end to the trial that would establish that by paying up to “make up for it”. As the criminal case was about losing the state some 41 million (his commision), at least officially, he paid more than double that.

          Sure, Bernie will keep upholding that he was never found guilty, but it won’t matter too much for his reputation, it will just make it a bit less messy.

          • DaveW (@dmw) said on 5th August 2014, 22:15

            Well a key question here is whether German law bars “double jeopardy.” Perhaps there is a Rechtsanwalt in the house who can say whether he can be tried based on the same “transaction” as we say in U.S. law or by application of evidence adduced in this trial. If he is subject to the prosecution having a go for a slightly different case, then that would put a different light on things.

        • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 5th August 2014, 16:14

          @girts

          Ecclestone’s lawyers are saying that “the presumption of innocence in favour of Mr. Ecclestone remains intact”

          What do you expect them to say my friend ? That’s what they are paid for.

          • What throws me a complete wobbly one is Grubowski is behind bars for taking a mega million $$$ bribe – incentive- whatever from Bernie to ensure-encourage the sale to CVC, The courts could prove well enough that Gruboswki took the bribe, but evidence is lacking to prove that Ecclestone paid it ?

            Wot tha?

          • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 6th August 2014, 16:32

            @greg-c
            Bernie is just proving the theory of “Money and Power could do wonders”. You can call me a conspiracy theorist but with a such legal system maybe he told the germans that apart from the money he is going to pay he can also tolerate the empty grandstands in the German GP.

  8. tino852 (@tino852) said on 5th August 2014, 13:23

    Money Talks.

  9. KeithR (@lockup) said on 5th August 2014, 13:32

    Very, very poor. The other guy gets 8 years, the instigator gets nothing. I really expected the Germany judiciary to be better than this.

  10. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 5th August 2014, 13:33

    Wow that’s embarassing… So one guy gets 8 and a half years in the slammer and the other pays an amount that they won’t even notice missing. In 6 months, he’ll have made that money back anyway!

    I’m shocked that he’s allowed to do that.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 5th August 2014, 14:27

      As I understand it, Gribowsky was sentenced under the pretext of taking a bribe as a public official (as the bank is state owned). The fact that it was from Bernie or for any amount is irrelevant.

  11. What a sham. Where’s the justice system’s backbone?

  12. Dan Vary said on 5th August 2014, 13:34

    There was a bit in the BBC report earlier this morning (can’t find it now, hopefully someone else can) that said it had been suggested by Ecclestone and/or his lawyer that the state of Bavaria used this “settlement” money to build a new Formula 1 track.

    It’s almost comically corrupt and proves the state of F1′s commmercial management is just as disgraceful as FIFA.

  13. davros said on 5th August 2014, 13:34

    Poor Bernie. Maybe if the members on F1Fanatic all contributed a little bit Bernie could be recompensed in some way.

  14. Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 13:39

    $100 mill wouldn’t even buy the house his daughter is selling in California. Just 2/3rds of it.

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