Former Bayern LB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was convicted of breach of trust, tax evasion and bribery for the $50 million received from Ecclestone during the sale of Formula One in 2005. In his concluding arguments the state prosecutor Christoph Rodler argued that Bernie Ecclestone, who paid some of the money, was not the victim of extortion “but the accomplice in an act of bribery”. Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. Gribkowsky had told the court in Munich last week that allegations that the money he had received from Ecclestone were bribes were “essentially true”. It remains to be seen whether Ecclestone is now officially investigated by the Bavarian prosecutors. For the moment he has not been charged with anything. Some believe that the Germans will not bother because it is really a case of one man’s word against another. However, not launching an investigation might be deemed as bad publicity for Germany, as such an action in such a high profile case might result in foreign businessmen being less worried about bribing German officials.
Germany is a signatory to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s convention on bribery, signed in 1997. The penalties for bribery under Section 334(1) of the German Criminal Code, are a sentence between three months and five years. However those involved in more serious cases can be imprisoned for one to 10 years.
Ecclestone’s explanations left a number of questions to be answered and that has attracted the attention of the British tax authorities. They want to understand how it was that Ecclestone AND the Bambino Trust both decided to pay Gribkowsky when Ecclestone is not supposed to have any influence over decisions that are made by the Trust. If the tax people conclude that he used influence to get money from the trust, they may try to have the trust arrangement revoked, which would mean that Ecclestone and his family would have to pay billions to the British government in tax. That would take years to achieve
Whatever the case, none of this is going to help the sport.