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

  1. lawrence said on 5th August 2014, 14:02

    So Gribkowski gets convicted of taking a bribe from Bernie, but Bernie isn’t automatically guilty of giving a bribe?
    This is why world should be led by scientists and artists, not lawyers and politicians.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 14:20

      BE’s claim, I believe, is in essence that he was blackmailed or ‘shaken down’ by Gribkowsky therefore didn’t give a bribe but rather had a gun to his head via threats made by Gribkowsky.

      • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 16:12

        @robbie But the course have said that it WAS a bribe – hence Gribkowskys conviction for bribary. It is no longer an alleged bribe, but an actual one. The BE has bribed his way out of.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 18:19

          @fluxsource Not sure since I’m sure we don’t know everything, but it could be that Gribkowsky is doing time because he was proved to have received money from what he alleges was a bribe coming from BE, but BE is claiming he didn’t bribe Gribkowsky but it was Gribkowsky who shook him (BE) down. Ie. they could prove Gribkowsky received money, but couldn’t prove that he didn’t shake BE down for said money, I’m guessing.

        • DaveW (@dmw) said on 5th August 2014, 22:20

          State would also have to prove that Bernie knew that Grib was a public official, which he denies. State may also have to prove that he got something of value or expected to. Point is, state would have to prove up this element. There are a lot of reasons the bribee could go down but the briber get off. In any case, I think there were some bidders for CVC, etc., waiting to serve Bernie with a major civil suit. This probably aint over

      • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 5th August 2014, 22:53

        @robbie Regardless, it is still a bribe, even one made under duress.

        If I make threats against you unless you murder someone for me, and you go ahead and do it, then you are not automatically absolved of your actions simply because I was blackmailing you. At best, you might be considered less responsible for your actions, but you’d still have to shoulder some blame.

        And of course, what were these threats that Gribkowsky was making against Ecclestone? Oh yes, that he would expose the fact that he has a controlling stake in Bambino, making him culpable for hundreds of millions of UK tax. Hrmmmm…

        Anyway, I’d say that this settlement effectively constitutes a de facto admission of guilt. Why would you ever make such a payment and leave the facts unclear if you felt totally confident that you had acted correctly and would be absolved by a fair trial? Maybe if you wanted to avoid the cost of trial, but Ecclestone had already shouldered a lot of that cost anyway. It’s hard to think of a reasonable, logical justification for making such a payment unless he thought there was a significant chance of him being found guilty. And that’s before you even consider what the repercussions could be from a professional standpoint. In terms of him being a credible individual to hold a senior executive position in any company, I would say that his career should, by all rights, now be over. If it isn’t, then it will prove once and for all, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the business of F1 is utterly corrupt and morally bakrupt. We knew it already, but no smoke and mirrors will avoid the potential turdstorm that CVC would have to weather if they kept him in charge of F1.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 6th August 2014, 12:59

          @mazdachris That’s fair comment. I sure don’t profess to know what exactly went on and am not compelled to defend BE even if I sound like it, but was starting off with assuming the German court is not corrupt nor able to be bribed. That to me would be far more shocking than anything BE would do.

          I would have thought if there was a significant chance of BE being found guilty then the courts would not have accepted a cheque and would rather have preferred to see the case through. But of course you are right that he looks guilty by making this payment. Yet he will now be able to claim emphatically that he is innocent, even though the settlement makes him neither innocent nor guilty. I suspect the courts know he is guilty of something, but can’t prove the exact charges leveled against him, and had he been charged slightly differently perhaps they would have had a stronger case against him.

          And I hear what you are saying about being a credible individual, but I suspect many will rally behind him under the guise that he has not been found guilty and therefore is credible, but as you correctly point out, that may just reveal further the moral bankruptcy of which F1 is capable.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 8th August 2014, 12:21


            Sorry bit late replying to this.

            Yes, I take your point, and it seems that Ecclestone could be found to be prolonging his life by eating orphan babies and the people in F1 would still support him. However, having the support and trust of people inside F1 is one thing, but I think CVC are a totally different proposition.

            CVC is an investment conglomerate – they take money from investors, invest it into a portfolio of businesses and stocks, and make massive profits on behalf of investors. F1 is just one product on its books, but one thing that has been proposed for a long time is the floatation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange. Several abortive attempts have been thwarted so far, all of which can be traced to concerns over Ecclestone’s business practices and the fact he was facing a whole raft of legal action relating to corruption. This was effectively the last straw, and the final obstruction to the floatation – if Ecclestone had been found innocent of corruption then they could happily float F1 knowing that it would be buoyant and profitable. However, having F1 headed up on the commercial side who is regarded, frankly, by a great number of people as a massive crook, is not a way to inspire investor confidence. In a floatation, the reputation of individuals, especially high profile ones like senior executives, has a big influence over share prices.

            But Ecclestone hasn’t been able to prove his innocence, and has bailed out of the trial instead, leaving grave doubts over his involvement in this whole shady debacle. If he remains in a senior executive role in F1, on behalf of CVC, then basically the floatation is almost impossible. CVC then would most likely just be looking to offload what has been, by any standards, an extremely profitable going concern, but one which has probably outlived its usefulness and will be having an impact on their other business.

            So basically, as a consequence of Ecclestone not being able to prove his innocence, it’s likely that he will be ousted by CVC, and their share of the commercial rights in F1 will be sold. For someone regarded by many as some kind of genius puppet master, it’s hard to see how that is a desirable outcome for Ecclestone.

            Unless of course he wanted to buy the commercial rights himself…. ;-)

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th August 2014, 15:05

            @mazdachris And within the links in Keith’s August 6th round-up when BE was asked if CVC were happy for him to continue, his response…’yes, of course.’ Lol, time will tell.

  2. Gary Yogurt said on 5th August 2014, 14:07

    I’m completely stunned and puzzled by this. Seems like medieval law & order.

  3. Jules Winfield (@jules-winfield) said on 5th August 2014, 14:10

    This will do the image of Formula 1 no end of good!

  4. kpcart said on 5th August 2014, 14:34

    Bernie is a disgrace with all that has happened here. here pretty much created F1, but f1 is a shadow of its former self, and so is Bernie.

    • Phil R said on 5th August 2014, 16:18

      How is F1 a shadow of its former self though? Double points? Just like dropped scores in the 80’s…

  5. Richard said on 5th August 2014, 14:43

    Well at least we know how much it costs to avoid justice this week.

  6. A sad day for justice and a sadder day for F1, the guy is corrupt and bought his way out of a prison sentence, what a disgrace.

  7. Michael Brown said on 5th August 2014, 15:09

    What kind of defendant pays to drop charges?

    A guilty one.

    • Pink Peril said on 6th August 2014, 0:53

      Exactly. As far as I’m concerned the jury is in on this one. It just beggars belief that the courts allowed him to effectively bribe his way out it. Reinforces the view that there is one rule for the rich and one for the rest of us, doesn’t it?

      • Michael Brown (@) said on 6th August 2014, 2:42

        And if the case was so weak against Bernie, then why is Gribkowsky still in jail and why does Berinie have to end the trial?

  8. BrawnGP said on 5th August 2014, 15:22

    Money doesnt buy you everything, but definitely has its advantages….

  9. lawrence said on 5th August 2014, 15:44

    Since Bernie is all about money, you just have to ask yourself, how much was Bernie standing to lose, if he was prepared to shell out $144,000,000.00 to avoid being audited.

    I feel disgusted for watching F1.
    At least I’m streaming it and I have no intention of financing FOM in any way any time soon.

  10. Dizzy said on 5th August 2014, 16:01

    It was just said on one of the TV new reports that the judge in the case had the option to turn down the offer & that its been said that he only allowed the settlement to go ahead because he felt the case against Bernie was pretty weak.

    • Dizzy said on 5th August 2014, 16:02

      the sky article also puts that view forward-

      F1 reporter Craig Slater said: “The case had been going well for him and it’s important to emphasise that this would not be happening unless the judge thought that the case was pretty weak against Bernie Ecclestone.

      “Had there been any great gravity of guilt then this potential outcome would not be possible.”

      • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 16:17

        I’m totally confused how this can be the case. The fact that a bribe was paid is now a indisputable fact – a man was jailed because of it. BE has admitted that he was the one that made the payment. What stronger case do you want?

        The same incident cannot be a bribe in one trial and not in another. That makes no sense. If BE was to found innocent, then surely Gribowsky would be released too, as no bribe would have been paid, therefore he is innocent?

        I wonder who else has been paid to ensure the case was “weak”.

        And yes, that is a direct accusation, Mr Ecclestone (and all others involved)

        • anon said on 5th August 2014, 17:40

          The point that Bernie and his legal team would argue upon is that the German authorities charged Gerhard Gribkowsky for corruption and for tax evasion.

          Now, technically the means by which Gribkowsky obtained that money was irrelevant to his conviction – it was the act of accepting illegal payments that he was found guilty of. It’s not the payment itself that is disputed, rather the reason behind it – Bernie’s defence that the payment was made under duress would still technically be valid in those circumstances.

          Of course, whether you choose to accept that defence is another matter entirely.

          • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 18:38

            “Mr Gribkowsky was convicted of tax evasion, bribery and breach of fiduciary duty over his involvement in the controversial sale of F1 to CVC in 2005.” From the Telegraph. I don’t have access to the precise wording of the conviction myself, but they appear to specific and carefully chosen words, suggesting the Gribkowsky was indeed convicted of bribery. For it to be bribery, a bribe would need to be paid. For a conviction, the fact that a bribe was paid would need to be established, and beyond reasonable doubt. (I assume that the legal system in Germany requires a similar standard of proof, but after todays farce I can’t be sure).

            Given that, Bernie and his legal team are talking out of their proverbial.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 18:32

          @fluxsource I think it is as anon is saying. Firstly is it a fact that Gribkowsky was charged because he accepted a bribe, or just an illegal payment, along with corruption and tax evasion? And even if he accepted a bribe, they were able to prove he received money. As anon points out, BE is claiming he wrote Gribkowsky’s cheque under duress ie. not a bribe but BE was being blackmailed/threatened/shook down.

          • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 5th August 2014, 18:40

            @robbie If the money was not in fact a bribe, but was blackmail, then Gribkowsky has been wrongly convicted of the wrong crime. I would now assume that he will soon acquitted of the charge of bribery, and face a new trial on the charge of blackmail.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th August 2014, 19:22

            @fluxsource I think we are talking about two different cases here, and Gribkowsky has been proven of certain wrongdoings, one of them including receiving money that is being termed a bribe. I’m guessing they cannot actually prove there was a bribe and that BE bribed him, but they can prove he received money illegally, along with breach of trust, and corruption.

            BE’s case is separate, and it would seem they cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that BE actually bribed Gribkowsky and wasn’t extorted into cutting a cheque, since Gribkowsky has been found guilty of breach of trust, corruption and tax evasion too.

            So to me, proving that Gribkowsky received money has been a lot easier than proving in a different court, at a different time, with a different person being accused, that said money was a bribe from said accused, namely BE. Saying now that BE potentially didn’t bribe Gribkowsky, but was extorted, doesn’t mean they now wind the clock back and cut Gribkowsky a break…he still received that money illegally and did other corrupt things which they have proven or he admitted to, and he possibly extorted BE and they can’t prove he didn’t extort BE to get said illegal money, just as they can’t prove BE bribed him.

            The money Gribkowsky received from BE was either a bribe by BE or an extortion by GG, and they can’t prove either, but they certainly know GG received something illegally and did other illegal acts.

  11. svianna (@svianna) said on 5th August 2014, 17:22

    Oh well, It looks like we will have 2 (or more) Russian F1 GP’s in the 2016. Maybe another one in Tajikistan so Bernie can make up the 100 millions back. Seriously, the risk here is that the global brands currently supporting F1 might realize that they are too close for comfort with corrupt individuals and institutions.

  12. synapseza (@synapseza) said on 5th August 2014, 17:27

    Bernie Says: “Always make sure you have enough cash!”

  13. In the UK bribery comes under criminal law, Same to Germany.

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