Ecclestone rejects German firm’s allegation of corrupt Formula 1 sale
30 October, 2013
A lawyer for Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone argued on Wednesday that the claim against him for more than $100 million in damages is far-fetched and relies on confessions from a jailed banker who is a fantasist.
German media firm Constantin Medien alleges that Ecclestone and three other defendants deliberately undervalued Formula 1 when German bank BayernLB sold its 47 percent stake in the sport to CVC Capital Partners for $830 million in 2005.
Constantin had an interest in the sale and says it lost out as a result of the undervaluation, which it says was a “corrupt bargain” instigated by Ecclestone because he knew that CVC would keep him in place as Formula 1 chief.
Putting forward Ecclestone’s version of events on the second day of a civil case at the High Court in London, lawyer Robert Miles said that there was no merit in Constantin’s claim.
“This is a case that simply does not add up,” he said, arguing that Ecclestone would have had no interest in undervaluing Formula 1 when his family’s Bambino Holdings was selling its own 25 percent stake at the same price.
Ecclestone is to give evidence in person next week.
The case is but one of a barrage of legal problems that threaten to end his long reign over F1. A German court is to decide next year whether he should be tried for bribery there.
He rejects Constantin’s allegation that BayernLB was persuaded to sell to CVC at that price because he promised multi-million-dollar bribes to the executive in charge, Gerhard Gribkowsky.
“The bank was absolutely delighted at the offer. The reason it sold to CVC was because it considered [the offer to be] a very good offer,” Miles said.
He claimed that CVC’s offer was attractive to BayernLB at a time when the future value of Formula 1 was in doubt because of a threat by racing car manufacturers to set up a rival series.
Gribkowsky, who received $44 million from Ecclestone after the sale, is serving 8 years in jail for corruption in Germany. Ecclestone accepts that he made the payments but claims that he was blackmailed by Gribkowsky who was threatening to make allegations about him to the British tax authorities.
“These payments were made because Dr Gribkowsky was ‘shaking down’ – in effect blackmailing – Mr Ecclestone in respect of his tax arrangements,” Miles wrote in written submissions to the court, also provided to journalists.
“The suggestion that this was all done to entrench [Ecclestone's] position simply does not bear scrutiny,” Miles said, adding that Ecclestone was in “the strongest position” he had ever enjoyed within Formula 1 at the time of these events.
“There is an array of evidence that demonstrates that Dr Gribkowsky was, to put it mildly, something of a fantasist,” Miles put in his written submissions.
He cited “ludicrous” suggestions made by Gribkowsky that Ecclestone had tried to bribe him with sums of $10 million to $20 million at the French or Australian Grand Prix in 2004.
Miles said that Gribkowsky had repeatedly changed his story, at one point mentioning a suitcase containing $20 million in cash but later dropping that particular detail. (Reuters)
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