Why Ecclestone won’t go to jail

In 2006 CVC purchased German bank BayernLB 47.2% of F1. In doing so, CVC took control of F1 and retained Bernie Ecclestone as the head of Formula One Management. In the process, Gerhard Gribkowsky was paid $44m which has been alleged as a bribe to steer the sell of BayernLB’s interest to CVC because the investment firm had agreed to retain Eccelstone as the CEO of F1.

The fact is that Ecclestone does admit to paying Gribkowsky but not as a bribe rather a payment as he was being blackmailed. Gribkowsky, who was convicted of tax evasion, allegedly threatened to tell HM Revenue & Customs that Ecclestone’s family trust, Bambino, was actually being ran by the 82-year-old F1 circus leader which, if true, would have meant serious tax implications for Bernie.

All of this may be academic, however, as former Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Max Mosley has spoken out regarding the issue. Mosely told our friend, Christian Sylt, at The Sunday Telegraph that there would have been no reason to pay a bribe in the hopes that the bank would sell to CVC in order to preserve his job because the regulatory body had a veto over any sale of the control of F1:

“The decision would have been for the WMSC where, as everyone knows, Bernie has many friends and supporters, so he would have had strong backing quite apart from anything I might have thought. He would have been very confident he could not be removed,” Mr Mosley said.

As Christian points out:

“But Mr Mosley now says that Mr Ecclestone would not have needed to pay a bribe, because he knew that if F1 had been sold to an owner who wanted to remove him, the deal would have been blocked by the sport’s governing body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile the (FIA).”

In an interesting turn of events, this information was actually included in the recently proffered defense from Ecclestone’s legal team and intriguingly the German court has now delayed the decision to take the case to trial until after the first of the year until a newly appointed judge has had proper time to peruse the case. Sylt explains more about the veto, the FIA and the Bambino Trust:

“German court documents reveal that even if F1 had not been sold, Mr Ecclestone’s position would have been protected through his family trust. They state that “an agreement dated 28 August 2005 granted ‘a right of veto for Bambino regarding removal of the Accused from his position as CEO’. ””

While not in the business of predicting case law, court proceedings and outcomes, it would not surprise us if the case was dismissed or if it was a monetary fine for his involvement in controlling the Bambino Trust. It would, however, be very difficult to prove that a bribe was paid to keep his job when the FIA and Bambino had a veto over the sell should Ecclestone be removed from his role as F1 ring leader.

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