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Exclusive: Court expects Gribkowsky to spill the beans

NEWS STORY
11/07/2011

Gerhard Gribkowsky, the jailed former chairman of F1's parent company SLEC, is believed to be ready to give a statement to German prosecutors about why he received an unexplained payment of £30m.

He has been in jail since January when he was arrested on suspicion of receiving the money for allegedly undervaluing a 47.2% stake in SLEC which his former employer, German bank BayernLB, sold to its current owner CVC in 2006. Gribkowsky has not yet been charged and has not given a formal statement on the situation which has led to some of the German media wildly speculating that F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone paid the money to him.

On Tuesday last week Pitpass broke the news that the deadline to charge Gribkowsky would pass by the end of the day and we can now exclusively reveal that a useful loophole was used to extend it at the eleventh hour. There was very good reason for doing this.

According to one of Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt's sources in Germany, the prosecutors "expect, that Gribkowsky will finally make a statement to them within the next weeks (which was not the case up to now). After that they will have to check his version, and that will take additional time." It remains unknown as to how they are aware that Gribkowsky is on the verge of spilling the beans but presumably the months of incarceration have helped focus his mind.

The prosecutors must think that there is a real chance that Gribkowsky will speak soon since this is why they did not want to adhere to the original deadline regarding pressing charges. Coincidentally, if his testimony comes in the next two weeks it will be just around the time that the German Grand Prix takes place.

Given that testimony from Gribkowsky could affect the charges, the last thing the prosecutors would have wanted to do was to make a decision in advance of him giving testimony.

The prosecutors were able to extend Gribkowsky's detention period through a useful loophole in German law. The original deadline passed six months after the first arrest warrant was issued when Gribkowsky was put in prison on 5 January. However, as Pitpass has reported, in May a second arrest warrant for Gribkowsky was issued by the Munich court over an allegedly suspicious payment of €250,000 which he received in a property deal as part of a consulting contract in 2008. This then triggered a second period for Gribkowsky to be held. Depending on the nature of his statement, charges could come sooner than expected though the new holding period may not be six months or less as some publications have stated.

According to Bloomberg, prosecutors have until mid-August before they need to ask the Munich court to extend Gribkowsky's pretrial detention. Likewise, even James Allen and Roger Blitz wrote in the Financial Times that prosecutors are expected to announce in the coming weeks what charges, if any, they will file. However, Sylt's source says that the prosecutors have "now no detailed timeframe." This is reflected in comments from Ecclestone to Sylt about these developments. When asked how long Gribkowsky can be locked up without being charged, Ecclestone said "two or three years." He added "what they say he has done is forgot to pay some taxes."

As Pitpass has reported, Gribkowsky is expected to be at least charged with tax evasion since he paid the £30m into an account in Austria rather than one in Germany, where he is resident, which would have attracted a higher rate of interest. However, testimony from Gribkowsky himself could change any charges against him and anyone else.

In April Pitpass exclusively broke the news to the English speaking world that the German prosecutors had accused Ecclestone of aiding and abetting an alleged breach of trust by Gribkowsky. Thanks to Pitpass' prompting on Tuesday that the deadline for pressing charges was up, the rest of the British media finally woke up and the accusations against Ecclestone were splashed across the sports pages on Wednesday.

It doesn't look like the sports reporters did much more than follow our lead. One wrote that Ecclestone "is set to discover imminently whether he will be charged," and another that Ecclestone "is waiting to discover today whether he will be forced to defend himself in court." Of course, neither is true since, as we reveal above, the decision has been delayed pending a testimony by Gribkowsky.

Whilst the sports reporters did some catching up they still don't seem to have taken onboard what Pitpass wrote three months ago - that there is no substance whatsoever to the accusations against Ecclestone.

Right from the outset of the investigation Ecclestone protested his innocence and, having analysed in detail all the theories about the reason for the £30m payment, Sylt is absolutely convinced that the F1 boss should never have been implicated in the proceedings in Germany. The Times claimed on Wednesday, that prosecutors have been "briefed to put together a case that linked Ecclestone to the payment that the banker is said to have deposited in accounts in Austria to avoid taxes in his home country." It explains why Ecclestone was expected to be charged with aiding and abetting though this could change depending on the testimony from Gribkowsky. Whichever way you look at it, the charge against Ecclestone does not seem to be justified at all.

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