F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone Indicted On Bribery Charge By German Prosecutors
German prosecutors "have indicted" F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE on a bribery charge, according to the BBC. The charge relates to a $44M payment to German banker GERHARD GRIBKOWSKY of Bayern Landesbank, "linked to the sale of a stake in F1." Ecclestone "denies bribing Gribkowsky," and says that the money was intended to stop the banker from exposing him to a U.K. tax inquiry (BBC, 7/17). In London, Blitz, Bryant & Chassany reported Ecclestone said, "I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It’s being translated into English." Asked how he responded to the indictment, Ecclestone said, "We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It’s a pity it’s happened." Sven Thomas, a lawyer for Ecclestone, "confirmed receiving the indictment from Munich prosecutors, which specifies claims of aiding and abetting breach of trust and of bribery." The Munich court said that "no decision was likely on whether to hear the case before the middle of September," giving Ecclestone’s defense team until mid-August to submit its response to the indictment (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/17). In another article, Blitz & Chassany reported it is not just German prosecutors "chasing" Ecclestone through the courts. BayernLB is threatening court action over the '05 sale, while Constantin Medien, which was "entitled to a payment from BayernLB in the event of the bank selling its stake," has begun proceedings. Also, a would-be F1 buyer has "served a writ" against Ecclestone. (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/17).
COSTLY CONSEQUENCES: Also in London, Paul Weaver reported Ecclestone has said that "he could be removed from his position in charge of F1 if found guilty." But, in a sense, "his guilt or otherwise is not the problem for F1 right now." It is the prospect of Ecclestone "being dragged through long months of court proceedings, a major distraction as the sport plans a flotation in Singapore" (GUARDIAN, 7/17). BLOOMBERG's Karin Matussek reported CVC spokesperson JAMES OLLEY said that the private equity group "had no immediate comment about Ecclestone being indicted." The company is not part of the investigation and has said that it did not know about any bribery payments in the deal (BLOOMBERG, 7/17). REUTERS' Irene Preisinger reported the case "could mean a further delay to tentative plans to float Formula One on the stock market in Singapore and will revive speculation about an eventual successor to the man who turned the sport into a major global business" (REUTERS, 7/17). In London, Simon Cass reported speaking in a recent interview about the prospect of being locked up, Ecclestone said, "I am not guilty of anything except being got at. But if I get sent to jail, I will have to deal with it. I don't think I will like it very much. But you have to get on with things" (DAILY MAIL, 7/17).