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At the end of last month it looked like we were finally close to the end of one of Formula One's most extraordinary and convoluted behind the scenes scandals. The moment came when Gerhard Gribkowsky, F1's former chairman, was convicted in a Munich court of receiving a £27.5m bribe for waving through the sale of the sport to its current owner, the private equity firm CVC, in 2006.
Gribkowsky was responsible for selling German bank BayernLB's 47.2% stake in F1 but he didn't tell his bosses that he personally received £27.5m from F1's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust. Ecclestone received £25.9m of BayernLB's proceeds from the sale to CVC and the German prosecutors believe that this was paid to cover the alleged bribe to Gribkowsky meaning that the bank lost out.
Ecclestone claims he got the money because of his role as a broker in the deal and he says that he paid Gribkowsky since the banker threatened to report false claims about his tax affairs to the UK's Inland Revenue. Ecclestone has not been accused of any wrongdoing but it looked like the heat would be on him last month when Gribkowsky made an alleged confession that the prosecutors' version of events is correct. He claimed that in fact he did receive a bribe for waving through the sale of F1 to CVC which wanted to keep Ecclestone as the sport's boss
That's the way things looked last week but that all changed when Gribkowsky's lawyers lodged an appeal. One wonders how he can appeal the verdict that he was guilty of receiving a bribe when he himself admitted to it in court however, it seems that the circumstances are crucial to this.
Gribkowsky made the supposed confession after being told by the court that if he admitted to the charges against him it would shorten his sentence and in the end he was given eight and a half years which was less than expected. Sources in Germany say that Gribkowsky may claim to have been forced into a confession and this, along with claims of failings by the prosecution, seems to be the basis of his appeal. Gribkowsky has recently taken on new lawyers to handle the appeal and it is understood that his mother is funding this.
There are two consequences of his appeal. The first is that it quells talk of Ecclestone being charged for paying the bribe. It was reported that the successful judgement against Gribkowsky for receiving the bribe would open the door for the prosecutors to charge Ecclestone for paying the money which he has admitted to doing. However, this no longer applies now that the judgement is being appealed and it is set to take some time to get through.
The court has 15 weeks to draft its judgement and once this has been filed, Gribkowsky has a month to lodge his reasons for appeal. His lawyers are also believed to be examining options to allow him to be released on bail during the appeal after spending the past eighteen months in custody. It could give him a good spell outdoors since the court reportedly won't reach a verdict until next year. So although a resolution to this sordid affair seemed near just last week in fact it is a long way from the final lap.
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