It’s difficult to know just what the next step in the Gribkowsky case in Germany is. If Gerhard Gribkowsky was found guilty of failing to pay taxes on a big sum of money, and he was, there would be a natural progression of sorts to determine the source of the big lump of cash he received. That has taken place as well and the venerable leader of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, did not deny he paid Gribkowsky but argued it was for a “shakedown” of sorts. Hush money to be more to the point.
If the German prosecution does take interest, and the press says they have, then the logical step might be to question Ecclestone and to that point, Mr. E has already given testimony once to the German court. Would another interview be needed if the prosecution were to continue their investigation down this rabbit hole? Possibly. Another issue was the possible arrest of Ecclestone if he were to set foot in Germany for this weekend’s Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that the string-puller of F1 was not present this weekend.
According to the Telegraph, Ecclestone says he did not want to be a distraction this weekend and there is an odd legal case going on in the UK where a dentist attempted to blackmail Ecclestone and suggested he had kidnapped his daughter, Tamara Ecclestone. The life of Ecclestone has had plenty of trappings and wealth but its had a few oddities as well.
If I were Mr. E, I wouldn’t run the risk of tooling around the Hockenheim paddock only to be arrested by German police for questioning with the possibility of jail time while proceedings continued. Extradition from the UK would be much more difficult than just walking into the hands of German prosecutors. Does that say I would be a sneak about it? No. If Ecclestone is telling the truth and he was a victim of a shakedown, then toying with prolonged jail time would be silly when your attorney’s can handle the issues from London.
Timing is bad as well with the Concorde Agreement in a touchy position. The teams have signed, save Mercedes, and the FIA are rattling sabers about re-negotiating the commercial rights contract that former president Max Mosley handed Ecclestone for a pittance. Things are heating up and why would Ecclestone trapse across the channel to possibly be detained on an issue that, while not the best of choices for Ecclestone, is clearly a matter that will be litigated via proper legal channels from the UK to Germany?
The assumption is that he made a bad choice in succumbing to blackmail because that is what Ecclestone said he did. If Germany is upset over the missing taxes, it’d be cheaper for Ecclestone, at this point, to just pay Germany what they are missing even though he was a self-described victim in this escapade.
Then again, what would Formula One be without some sort of “Gate” going on? Bribery-gate is just the latest in a long line of politically embarrassing episodes and not all of them involve Ecclestone. I don’t blame Eccelstone for not going to Germany, especially if he is innocent and made a bad choice. If he is not innocent, then I can certainly understand his not going to Germany for a completely different motivation. While Ecclestone is still as sharp as a tack and operating the F1 circus, sitting in a jail at 82-years-old would not be a good thing for a man who doesn’t stand stil for long.