Formula 1 finds itself on the financial pages again tonight, but not for the right reasons. Gerhard Gribkowsky, the 52 year old former chairman of SLEC, the holding company of F1′s commercial rights, which was sold to CVC, has been arrested in a probe on bribery, breach of trust and tax evasion allegations.
German prosecutors wanted him over $50 million of payments relating to the sale of the stake held by his bank, Bayern LLB’s, in F1.
According to the prosecutor in Munich, Bayern LLB, of which Gribkowsky was a senior executive, sold its stake without it being properly evaluated and Gribkowsky received $50 million in payments disguised as two consultancy agreements via companies in the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius into a foundation he set up in Austria called Sonnenschein (Sunshine).
Prosecutors say that because Gribkowsky didn’t declare the money as income in Germany, he may also have evaded taxes.
However Gribkowsky’s Austrian lawyer told the Austrian Press Agency tonight that the foundation was investigated in 2006 and nothing came of it and that the money was “fully taxed”.
CVC, which still owns the majority stake in F1 commercial rights holder issued a statement tonight saying,
“CVC confirms that it has no knowledge of, nor any involvement in, any payment to Mr Gribkowsky or anyone connected with him in relation to CVC’s acquisition of Formula One.”
Bayern LLB got involved in F1 when the Kirch Group, to whom Bernie Ecclestone had sold a stake in the F1 commercial rights holder, went under in 2002, leaving three banks, including Gribkowsky’s, holding the F1 assets.
He became a regular figure in the paddock and even co-hosted a dinner for a small group of British media at Magny Cours, with Ecclestone. During this time Bayern LLB became the main bank in the consortium and Gribkowsky therefore became chairman of SLEC in 2005. This was at the height of the threat from the manufacturers to break away and start their own series.
For more on this story go to: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b7cc79fa-18fd-11e0-9c12-00144feab49a.html#ixzz1ACSH1miW