Ecclestone Reveals Details Of $44M Bribe; Malaysian F1 Given Thumbs Up
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone revealed for the first time "details of how he was allegedly blackmailed" for £29M ($44M) by jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, according to Sylt & Reid of the London TELEGRAPH. He said that Gribkowsky threatened to tip off U.K. tax authority HMRC with "false details about his tax affairs if the money was not paid." However, until now, Ecclestone "has not revealed details" of the threat that Gribkowsky allegedly used to get the £29M. Ecclestone said that "it centred on the Paul Ricard circuit," a race track near Marseille which hosted the French Grand Prix in the '70s and '80s. An extensive renovation involving 1,200 workers "was carried out to transform the circuit into a hi-tech test track." This work was co-ordinated by Excelis Chair Philippe Gurdjian along with Ecclestone, and "this formed the basis of Mr Gribkowsky’s threat." Ecclestone said, "I helped the people that own the circuit in Ricard, it belongs to the trust. I helped them and told them the sort of hospital they should build and even the sort of car run-off areas they should build. Gribkowsky said, I ran the trust and this is one example. As a U.K. taxpayer, Ecclestone "was not allowed control over the trust, otherwise it could be declared a sham and tax would have to be paid on it." Ecclestone said that, although there was no substance behind Gribkowsky’s allegation, he was concerned HMRC might take it seriously and that it “might cause them to assess me to owe a tax bill of many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds that I believe I did not owe” (TELEGRAPH, 3/23).
MALAYSIA'S THUMBS UP: In Malaysia, Audrey Edwards reported Malaysia has been "given the thumbs up" by Ecclestone. Ecclestone said, "There are no dramas and all the people are very nice and good to deal with." He was commenting on Malaysia playing host to F1 races since '99. Ecclestone added that the Sepang Int'l Circuit will need a "paint job" (STAR ONLINE, 3/23). In Dubai, M. Satya Narayan reported after four consecutive sellouts, the Yas Marina Circuit "will now open its ‘Abu Dhabi Hill’ to accommodate extra spectators" for the '13 F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix -- the fifth running of which will take place on Nov. 3. Organizers announced the start of ticket sales with a 20% early bird discount available until May 31. This year's race will "see an increase in the number of spectators from 50,000 to 55,000" (GULF NEWS, 3/24).