F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has been formally charged by German prosecutors over an alleged illegal payment of $44m to banker Gerhard Gribkowsky during the sale of F1 to CVC several years ago.
German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, who broke the story, were quoted as saying: "Munich has filed charges against Bernie Ecclestone.” The newspaper specified that Ecclestone would be charged with the serious offence of bribing a public official relating to the incident with Gribkowsky.
Speaking at the time of Gribkowsky’s trial, Ecclestone claims he made the alleged payment of $44m to the former F1 banker, who has since been imprisoned for a separate incident, after the former BayernLB risk officer threatened to report the 82-year-old to the UK tax authorities over 'irregularities'.
Ecclestone added: "The taxation people in England at the time were in the middle of settling everything with the trust (Bambino) and the last thing you need is for them to start thinking something different.
"He (Gribkowsky) was shaking me down and I didn't want to take a risk."
Worried about potentially being blackmailed by Gribkowsky, Ecclestone asked his lawyers for advice on how to deal with the corrupt banker.
"They said 'I tell you what would happen, the (inland) Revenue would assess you and you would have to defend it, because you could defend it, and you would be three years in court and it would cost you a fortune. Better pay'," explained the F1 chief executive.
The payment was supposedly made through companies in Mauritius and the Virgin Islands, and Ecclestone has implied it was because he didn't want anyone to think the money had come from his personal fortune.
Should the trial be ordered by the Munich court, it is likely to take place sometime next year and could spell the end of Ecclestone’s lengthy reign over Formula 1.
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