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Gribkowsky's lawyer insinuates that Ecclestone controls Bambino trust

NEWS STORY
13/12/2013

The long-running trial against Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone came to a close in London's High Court today but a verdict won't be known until early next year.

The gap gives the media plenty of time to produce summaries of the events in court and the first of these came last night on BBC's Newsnight. Its investigation into the Ecclestone trial was carried out by the BBC's chief sports correspondent Dan Roan and can be seen here. It featured an interview with Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt but we dare say that he was by far and away not the star of the show. That accolade goes to Daniel Amelung, the lawyer for Gerhard Gribkowsky, former manager of German bank BayernLB.

As regular Pitpass readers will know all too well, Gribkowsky was jailed in Germany for eight-and-a-half years in 2012 for receiving a payment of £26.9m ($44m) from Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust.

The £26.9m payment was made between 2006 and 2007 and the allegation against Ecclestone is that the money was a bribe paid to Gribkowsky.

According to this argument, the bribe was paid so that Gribkowsky would sell BayernLB's 47.2% stake in F1 to CVC, as it had agreed to retain Ecclestone as F1's boss. This allegation is at the heart of the case against Ecclestone in London and it also underpins a case against him in New York as well as possible lawsuits in Germany and Switzerland.

Ecclestone's defence to all of these cases is identical; he says that Gribkowsky had threatened to make false claims about his tax affairs if the money was not paid. In specific, Ecclestone says that Gribkowsky insinuated that he was in control of Bambino and could have reported this to the UK tax authorities. If he had done so, it could have been very damaging indeed.

Ecclestone is a UK resident and a UK tax payer whereas Bambino is based offshore. The trust has £2.4bn ($4bn) in its coffers from selling stakes in F1 but, since it is offshore, no tax has been paid on the money. If Ecclestone was found to be in control of the trust the money would legally have to be treated as being his so he would have to pay tax on it. This payment would come to around £1bn which is a huge amount even for someone of Ecclestone's means.

Ecclestone strongly denies being in control of the trust and says that although Gribkowsky had no evidence to back up his threat, if he had contacted the UK tax authorities it would still have led to a long and costly investigation. This would have come at the worst possible moment as Ecclestone says he was already being investigated by the UK tax authorities at the time that Gribkowsky made his threats.

In court last year Gribkowsky denied that he was paid because he was making insinuations that Ecclestone controls the trust. Instead, Gribkowsky confessed that he was indeed bribed to sell F1 to CVC. In response, Ecclestone says that Gribkowsky confessed in order to reduce his sentence. However, Gribkowsky has stood by his court testimony in conversations with prosecutors since being convicted and still denies that he was paid because he was making insinuations that Ecclestone controls the trust. This brings us neatly back to Newsnight.

In an incredible turn of events Gribkowsky's lawyer Daniel Amelung last night made the very same insinuations which his client denies led to the £26.9m payment.

"It's a little bit ridiculous to say that he was blackmailed with informations about Bambino because it's an open secret that Mr Ecclestone is the deciding man behind Bambino," said Amelung.

The fact that Amelung said this is surprising in itself but broadcasting it on national television is truly astonishing. It adds tremendous weight to Ecclestone's version of events as one could hardly say that Gribkowsky would never make such insinuations when his lawyer has broadcast them to the world. Let's not forget that these are the very same insinuations which Gribkowsky denied in sworn court testimony to be connected to the £26.9m payment from Ecclestone and Bambino.

Amelung couldn't have come out with this in a more high profile place and no doubt the judge who now has to rule on the Constantin case was playing close attention.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by gormsen, 20/12/2013 11:38

"There is certainly no smoke without a fire"

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2. Posted by emcomments, 16/12/2013 13:00

"As far as I understand it, from the article above and information elsewhere, there seems to be no doubt that the £26.9m payment was made. The question for the German court was it 'receiving a bribe' which it convicted Gribkowsky of. Mr Ecclestone said it was not a bribe but a 'sweetener' to keep his mouth shut over false allegation around tax. All well and good (bad?).

However, the question for Mr Ecclestone (and Bambino?) still remains: if Mr Ecclestone doesn't have influence over Bambino then why did it contribute to the payment to Gribkowsky? That seems a fair enough question to which HMRC should seek a satisfactory response. When Mr Ecclestone provides it that will be an end to that matter."

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3. Posted by emcomments, 16/12/2013 12:48

"The Newsnight link above is to the mobile version. For us old farts on desktops the link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03ln3qn/Newsnight_12_12_2013/"

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4. Posted by Double 0 Kevin, 16/12/2013 0:40 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/12/2013 9:20)

"This comment was removed by an administrator as it was judged to have broken the site's posting rules and etiquette."

Rating: Neutral (0)

5. Posted by GoodPublicity, 15/12/2013 13:37

"Bernie's explanation for handing over millions of pounds to Gribkowsky makes him look more naive than Neville Chamberlain."

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6. Posted by Chris, 14/12/2013 18:09 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/12/2013 9:20)

"Given that your comments on the previous article were based on a flawed premise it does not surprise me that this comment too has no substance.

Let's say I know that a Formula One journalist is having an affair and I tell him that this is an 'open secret'. If his wife doesn't know, and he knows that I am aware of that, then the very fact that I mention to him that it is an open secret could be considered a threat. In Ecclestone's case, the equivalent of the wife is the tax man who clearly did not think that he was in control of the trust otherwise the trust would have been declared a sham.

If I have discovered a comment on your Twitter page which is highly libellous to a prominent F1 personality who is a friend of mine then, by your argument, I would actually be refuting a threat if I were to tell you that I will tell the person in question if you don't stop posting comments here which have flawed arguments. Being on Twitter it is in the public domain and is therefore no different to an "open secret." Unless of course you accept that as you only have, say, 50 followers on Twitter, and the person in question is not one of them, then he is not likely to have seen it. This of course is no different to it allegedly being an open secret that Ecclestone is in control of the trust even though the tax man does not know.

If both sides are aware that the relevant person (in the above examples: the wife/F1 personality/tax man) does not know the 'open secret' then the very fact that it is raised could be considered a threat. I wonder if you can see the flaw with your argument now?"

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7. Posted by eeyore, 14/12/2013 12:01

"Sometimes I wonder if I have lost my capacity to understand the English language when I look at quotes in articles and then read how some Pitpass authors interpret them.

When I read that quote ascribed to Gribkowsky's lawyer, I see only a refutation of the 'blackmail' claim! To me, he's saying 'because it's not a secret that Ecclestone controls Bambino, there's no value in paying blackmail to keep Gribkowsky from revealing what others already know'. The argument that I assume he goes on to make is that the only other reason for paying Gribkowsky a substantial sum is bribery.

Any 'insinuation' made by this lawyer to support the blackmail claim seems to be in the mind of the author and I totally disagree with the claim that this 'adds tremendous weight to Ecclestone's version of events'. But then, perhaps, it's me that inhabits the Alice-in-Wonderland world where words can mean whatever I want them to mean.

Excuse me, I going to climb back into my teapot now......

"

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8. Posted by francis-n, 13/12/2013 22:22

"If you have been following the detailed analysis of the whole saga on Pitpass the Newsnight coverage was typically superficial - but good to see Christian Sylt sort of in the flesh!

And typical politician trying to get on the bandwagon with little clue what she was talking about :-("

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