Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been indicted by German prosecutors on a bribery charge.
The charge relates to a $44 million payment to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky of Bayern Landesbank. It was linked to the sale of a stake in F1.
Bernie Ecclestone said he had paid Gerhard Gribkowsky to avoid a UK tax inquiry into the sale of Formula 1 in 2006, but denied the payments were bribes.
Gerhard Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail in Munich.
Speaking to the Financial Times on Wednesday, Bernie Ecclestone said: “I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It’s being translated into English.”
Asked how he responded to the indictment, he said: “We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It’s a pity it’s happened.”
Bernie Ecclestone said it was “inevitable” that the indictment had been served.
“If someone wants to sue you, they can do it and you have to defend it,” he said.
In 2006, Gerhard Gribkowsky was in charge of managing the sale of regional bank BayernLB’s 48% stake in Formula 1 to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which meant the firm owned most of the sport.
CVC has since reduced its stake in a series of deals.
In evidence to a Munich court in June last year, Gerhard Gribkowsky admitted that prosecution claims he had corruptly received $41.4 million in bank commissions, and a large payment via a family trust from Bernie Ecclestone, were “essentially true”.
In his testimony, Bernie Ecclestone said he had been worried that if he had not paid the money, Gerhard Gribkowsky would have alerted the UK tax authorities to “things” that might have led to a tax inquiry.
“The only alternative was that the British tax authorities followed a case that would have been very expensive for me,” said Bernie Ecclestone at the time.
“The tax risk would have exceeded £2 billion. I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things.”bernie ecclestone, bribery, cvc capital partners, formula 1, tax inquiry