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Banker gets 8 and half yrs in F1 bribe case

A German court today jailed a banker who admitted taking bribes during the sale of a stake in Formula One for eight and half years.

world Updated: Jun 27, 2012 23:51 IST

A German court jailed a banker who admitted taking bribes during the sale of a stake in Formula One for eight and half years on Wednesday in a case involving the motor sport group's billionaire commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone.

Presiding judge Peter Noll convicted BayernLB's former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky of tax evasion, bribery and breach of fiduciary trust in a court in Munich.

Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 in relation to the sale of BayernLB's 48% stake in Formula One to UK investor CVC, which Formula One chief Ecclestone was keen to see as a new shareholder.

Gribkowsky admitted in court earlier this month that he received $44 million and a job offer as part of a secret agreement with Ecclestone in 2005.

Judge Noll described Ecclestone as the "driving force" behind the payments but said Gribkowsky, in turn, had shown "high criminal energy".

Ecclestone has been subject to an investigation by German prosecutors but no charges have been filed against the 81-year-old Briton.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office has said it was liasing with the authorities in Germany to consider the allegations and whether there was scope for investigation.

Ecclestone, who gave evidence in court in November, last week told Reuters that paying Gribkowsky had been a "bit stupid" but said he had been subject to coercion.

He said that he paid some 10 million pounds ($16 million) to Gribkowsky only to "keep him quiet" because Gribkowsky had been putting him under pressure over his tax affairs, and not to smooth the sale to CVC.

Prosecutor Christoph Rolder told the court on Wednesday that Ecclestone was "not the victim but a co-conspirator in corruption".

Ecclestone was not immediately available for comment after the verdict.

He has helped turn Formula One into a global business that is expected to have revenues of $2 billion this year. It tours the world in a 20-race season that regularly attracts television audiences of hundreds of millions.

The judge had previously said Gribkowsky could face up to nine years in prison.

BayernLB had ended up with the Formula One stake following the bankruptcy of late German media mogul Leo Kirch and had assigned Gribkowsky with the task of hiving it off.

CVC owned a 63% stake from 2006 but has cut that to around 35% with a series of sales in recent months.

Plans to float the business in Singapore this month were put on hold because of market turmoil.

First Published: Jun 27, 2012 23:47 IST