Ecclestone receives support in blackmail claim

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s allegation that he was blackmailed into paying a German banker millions of dollars for the commercial rights of the sport have been backed by a former colleague of the banker, Spiegel news magazine reported on Saturday.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former head of risk management at Bavarian bank BayernLB, has been charged with corruption, abuse of confidence and tax evasion after overseeing the sale of BayernLB’s commercial rights stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in early 2006.

Ecclestone, who is CEO and president of F1’s governing body, has admitted to paying Gribkowsky a total of $44-million in 2006 and 2007 from himself and his family holding company Bambino Trust but he says they were payments because he was being blackmailed and not bribes as has been claimed.

Gribkowsky, whose trial is set to get under way on October 24 in Munich, denies the charges.

However, according to Monday’s edition of Spiegel the former colleague of Gribkowsky told investigators that she had received in 2004 a compromising document detailing links between Ecclestone and Bambino which she then passed on to Gribkowsky.

Later, Gribkowsky is claimed to have taken the incriminating document to Ecclestone’s office in London and the 80-year-old Englishman is alleged to have preferred to pay him rather than face an in-depth investigation of his family’s wealth by the British tax man.

“I was scared,” Ecclestone is reported to have told investigators.

Gribkowsky says he knows of no such document and the investigators have not uncovered it either according to Spiegel.—Sapa, AFP

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