According to widespread reports in the German newspapers the Munich prosecution service is preparing an official investigation into Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement in the Gribkowsky Affair. The Prosecution Service itself is saying nothing.
The investigation is, however, entirely predictable after the recent comments by the judge when sentencing Gribkowsky to eight and a half years in jail. In fact, it is fair to say that the Bavarian prosecutors do not really have a choice, as it is their duty to investigate any matter as soon as an allegation of criminal activity has been raised. The reports in Germany suggest that the prosecution service has completed an eight-hour interview with Gribkowsky during which he repeated the same claims as he made in his confession in court, admitting bribery, breach of trust and tax evasion and alleging that Ecclestone paid him a $44 million bribe. Ecclestone has denied this and says that Gribkowsky was trying to get money from him to not report the F1 boss to the British tax authorities.
The big question in F1 circles is what happens next. If there are “on the record” allegations against Ecclestone, the most likely course of action is that the prosecutors will urgently seek an interview with him. This could be in Munich or, possibly, at Hockenheim this weekend. The prosecutors will then act according to the answers that Ecclestone gives them. They could, in theory at least, arrest him on the basis that someone with their own long-range private jet presents a serious flight risk. Gribkowsky was taken into custody after his meeting with prosectors because they feared that he would run away to a country without extradition agreements with Germany. As a result he remained in jail for over a year while the investigation was completed. Ecclestone has said that he will go to Germany if asked to do so, and continues to say that he has nothing to fear. However there is a risk that the prosecutors will have a different view and if they can convince a court to issue an arrest warrant Ecclestone could be jailed pending the outcome of the investigation. Not going to Germany is obviously an option, given the risks involved, but that would not look good. In that scenario the Germans would then need to apply for a European arrest warrant and ask British courts to have Bernie arrested in the UK and then extradited to Germany.
It remains to be seen what will happen but it is clearly in the best interests of F1 that this business be sorted out as quickly as possible.