Bernie Ecclestone, accused of paying a bribe to steer a Formula One racing stake to CVC Partners Ltd. (CCPG), said he offered to pay $50 million to a German banker to keep “quiet” about a family trust that may have led to a U.K. tax inquiry.
Ecclestone, speaking for the first time at his Munich trial to detail talks about the payments, said he offered the money to Gerhard Gribkowsky, Bayerische Landesbank’s chief risk manager, because he’d grown concerned Gribkowsky would reveal confidential information, following repeated remarks about the trust by the former bank manager.
The conversation about the payment, in November 2005, came after Gribkowsky suggested he’d like to leave the bank to pursue “other things,” Ecclestone said in response to questions from the presiding judge. “I asked him, would $50 million be enough” to pursue these ambitions, “hoping this would be enough to keep him quiet,” Ecclestone told the court.
The corruption scandal has plagued Ecclestone since Gribkowsky was first arrested three years ago. It threatens Ecclestone’s control of the international motor-racing championship he has owned or run since 1995. He gave up his seat on the racing series’ board after the Munich court said he must stand trial on the bribery charges.
Ecclestone said today he was concerned U.K. tax authorities could take allegations about the trust’s activities seriously, triggering further tax payments.
So far in Ecclestone’s bribery trial his lawyers have only read out written testimony at the start of proceedings.
Ecclestone has previously admitted eventually paying $44 million, denying it was a bribe to ensure London-based CVC won control of Formula One. BayernLB sold its majority stake to CVC for $840 million in 2006.
Gribkowsky in 2012 was sentenced to 8 and 1/2 years in prison for accepting a bribe.
The Munich court has scheduled additional trial days and Gribkowsky will testify again later this year.
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