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F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone confirms he has been indicted in Germany
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jul 2013   |  11:40 am GMT  |  95 comments

After months of waiting, Formula 1′s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed this morning that he has been formally indicted by the prosector in Germany, relating to the conviction of former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky for corruption.

According to a Financial Times article today, Ecclestone said,

“I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It’s being translated into English. We are defending it properly.

“It will be an interesting case. It’s a pity it’s happened.”

Ecclestone added that he had not been offered a route to resolve the suit financially, as had been rumoured in F1 circles.

The teams and FIA will now await developments from CVC and the board of Formula 1, regarding Ecclestone’s ongoing position as chief executive.

Today’s development relates to a $44 million payment to Gribkowsky when he was an officer at Bayern Landesbank, which was a shareholder of F1 before it sold to CVC.

Ecclestone has said that the money paid to Gribkowsky was in response to a “shakedown” by the banker. He has always denied that the payment was a bribe.

According to the FT, Ecclestone’s representatives are due to appear in the London courts this week to defend a suit brought by Constantin Medien that he undersold the commercial rights to F1 to CVC.

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  1. All revved-up says:

    This will be interesting!

    Bernie’s financial clout versus German determination.

    Some lawyers will make a lot of money.

    Can the German authorities seize Bernie’s assets in Germany if Bernie loses and doesnt show up to do jail time. Can a convicted criminal still run F1 in Germany?

    Will be years before this is resolved. But interesting it surely is!

    Will this front page spotlight be good for F1? Any exposure, no matter if bad, is good exposure?

    1. Adrian J says:

      I don’t believe that a convicted criminal in any country would be kept on as CEO by CVC…not if they’re looking to float F1 at some point.

      I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of the end of Bernie’s time at the helm…

      …but I would be very surprised if there isn’t a plan in place to ensure F1 goes on, even if it isn’t public knowledge (and why would it be).

      1. Lynden says:

        he is not a convicted criminal yet and still does a brilliant job of running F1. It would be extremely hard to find a successor

        Many of us who work in F1 owe him a tremendous amount ….his vision and tireless work have made the sport what it is.

        I wish him well and hope he avoids prosecution as I hate to think what would happen if we lose him

      2. Dave P says:

        I am not convinced by all of the people who make it sound that F1 wouldn’t be there without him. EVERYONE is replaceable.

        It may be that if he was not there we would have a much better F1 than is now… certainly the BBC would be part of it. Certainly the teams would not be as greedy as they are.

        No… I do not wish him harm, but it is time for a change…

      3. Atlas Shrunk says:

        I hope he avoids prosecution, if he can’t be proved to be guilty. Otherwise, those in F1 who owe him so much will have to cope without such a tyreless leader.

        Much as both can be asses at times, F1 should not be above the law.

      4. David Ryan says:

        Agree on the first part, but like a number of people I’d probably take issue with the “brilliant job of running F1″ claim. He’s certainly done a very good job of making money for CVC, but during his tenure we’ve had some questionable expansions of the calendar (Valencia and Korea being but two examples), lost the French Grand Prix and nearly lost Silverstone and Spa, seen costs spiral out of control and fans increasingly marginalised in favour of the Paddock Club et al. And that’s without mentioning the Bahrain debacle. Bernie deserves credit for raising F1′s profile in the 1980s and 1990s, but I think it’s time for a change at the top – we need someone who will put the interests of the sport first and foremost, and unfortunately I do not believe that is the case for Bernie any more.

      5. W Johnson says:

        Not sure Bernie ever helped McLaren employees (who are based in Britain) when he sided with Ferrari at every opportunity!

      6. Javier says:

        Quite a few comments here about his contribution to F1 and if he is still a positive contribution to F1. None of this matters. If they have enough evidence to put together a case, then let the courts decide if he is guilty. If he is guilty then he should pay the appropriate price. His money will assure that he has as good a defense team as possible. If despite that he is found guilty and sentenced to prison, then everything he has done before does not give him any entitlement to immunity.

      7. Kimi4WDC says:


        CVC is Bernies biggest regret, but he was forced due to Global Financial Situation. Otherwise he would never let out so much control out of his hands.

        All the stakeholders(including teams) will be at each others throats when Bernie’s authoritative voice retires.

      8. Sebee says:

        When you have the lawyers and the money, how long can you stretch a case like this? How long can you delay from getting to trial. How many court levels are there in Germany who’s ruling can be appealed to a higher court?

        I’m putting a pint on the line that James is writing about this case in 2019. If QE is kept on, by then we’ll need 44M to buy a 4 pack or Red Bull.

      9. All revved-up says:

        Agree. MrB has enough money to stretch this out for the rest of his life and more!

      10. crndl says:

        well said, especially the points about QE :(

      11. I know says:

        I’m not sure what James Allen will be writing about in 2019, but I am reasonably certain that Mr. Ecclestone will be either acquitted or convicted, with no further appeal possible, by the end of 2017, and quite probably well before that.

      12. Jake says:

        I suspect Bernie will suddenly come down with a strange illness, one of the symptoms being partial memory loss with a touch of dementia throw in for good measure.

      13. All revved-up says:

        You make some excellent points.

      14. SteveS says:

        “I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of the end of Bernie’s time at the helm”

        He’ll be 83 years old in a couple of months, so it’s safe to assume that Bernie’s time at the helm of F1 is drawing to a close one way or another. Not even Bernie can put one over on Father Time.

    2. David Goss says:

      I think Germany has extradition agreements with most of the civilised world, so I don’t think skipping bail is really an option.

      F1 is run from the UK so in that respect he would probably be fine to continue, assuming he manages to avoid prison.

      1. iceman says:

        The guy who was convicted of receiving the bribe got 8 years’ porridge, so prison seems a strong possibility.

      2. Wade Parmino says:

        Even if that happens, at his age his lawyers would just play the ‘ill health’ card and he would serve his time confined to his lavish and luxurious estate.

      3. Here in the ‘States’ when someone is indicted they are routinely placed on “administrative leave” until the situation is resolved — sometimes even before a charge has been issued. The orignal “shakedown threat” to expose tax evasion (or whatever tax problem it was) must have had some substance to generate that level of what the German Courts have defined as a “bribe” for the now imprisoned banker. “Interesting” is an odd adjective to use, methinks.

      4. Quade says:

        F1 is run from France (FIA HQ), but most factories are in England and F1 culture has distinctly British flavour.

      5. David Goss says:

        F1 the sport is in Paris, but F1 the business is in London.

  2. Mitori says:

    I see Mercedes winning the championship this year ;-)

    1. Sebee says:

      OK, that’s a good one.

      If I remember correctly, Bernie did treat Mercedes harshly with their negotiations…you know “they are not a historic team, they are new and won one GP”, all that jazz. Not sure if Mercedes would use their influence to help out behind the scenes. In fact, I think the opposite. They want nothing to do with this and have said that they may pull out if F1 is tainted in this scandal.

      This Gribkowsky case is like a light being turned on in a dark room. Wonder what we will see, how big this may get, and who can find a good hiding spot under as to not be exposed. Let’s be honest, this has the potential to completely change F1.

      1. Quade says:

        Merc swore to eject Bernie from F1 last year. This trial will be the hit movie of the year.
        **Grabs popcorn**

      2. Sebee says:

        Seriously Quade, look at all the piranhas circling around CVC and Bernie with lawsuits. Not baby suits either, 170M, 300M I think, etc. No small amounts. Everyone wants a piece, and what if the question of legality of the ownership is brought up, and taxation challanges for many of the parties involved. Good luck fighting the government of tax evasion. This has the potential to blow up huge and change “our” sport forever.

        Wow, that was a dramatic comment! :-)

      3. Quade says:

        Sebee, that’s why I’m stocking up on popcorn, this has to be a turning point of some sort. Ferrari hates his guts as well, that’s got to be one too many. I really think its going to be “bye-bye Bernie.” The question is; how dirty will the succession battle be?

  3. Valentino from montreal says:

    When you have Ecclostone’s kind of money , all you get as punishment is a slap on the wrist …

    Im not worried one bit for Bernie … Im sure he’s got the best of lawyers working on this case …

    1. I know says:

      There is no room in German law between a conviction of bribery involving a sum of $44M and a prison sentence – just look at Mr. Gribkowsky, the man who allegedly received the bribe, and who is currently serving an eight year jail sentence. If he is found guilty, the only way for Mr. Ecclestone to escape prison would be on age grounds.

      1. Scuderia McLaren says:

        Or terminal illness. Wait for the terminal cancer announcements…

        Only the Italians don’t mix jail and the very elderly. It’s a reflection perhaps of their aged politicians?! No one can catch the Bunga Bunga virus there. ;)

      2. Aaron says:

        ….or by spending the rest of his days on a private island somewhere in the Caribbean…..which I have to say if I were Bernie I would be seriously contemplating right about now.

      3. testgate rules says:

        i hope he pays for all the abuse he has inflicted on the fans, circuit owners etc.
        His daughters can go visit with a bunch of bottles of cristal chamagne.

      4. JoeP says:

        My friend, in this case Gribkowsky IS the small fry.

        Men like Bernie do not go to jail in any country.

        Men like Gribkowsky do…

      5. I know says:

        Mr. Ecclestone may cut a deal with the prosecution, but given the sum involved, I don’t think that’s likely. Only last year, Germany’s highest criminal court has ruled that tax evasion of more than €1M or more must carry an automatic unsuspended prison sentence, even if the offender is fully cooperating. If found guilty, I would find it highly unlikely that Mr. Ecclestone can escape a prison sentence, except for his age.

    2. Tim says:

      @ Val
      On your first point, I am not so sure. There is another Bernie (Madoff) who had a lot of bish bash, and he is now serving 150 years. Or, how about a fellow countryman of yours, Conrad Black ?
      On your second point, I don’t disagree, I have no doubt the finest legal minds are on the case.

  4. Tim L says:

    IMO this is not going to bode well for BE

    1. JoeP says:

      Wow – shocking insight. Care to comment on the likely impact of another war in the Middle East on the price of gas in USA?

      1. Jock Ulah says:

        Nil – thanks to shale gas.

      2. VV says:

        There’s no need to be rude.

      3. Bradley says:

        Minimal. With the shale revolution and no export facilities ready to go, the US gas price has pretty much decoupled from world gas and oil prices.
        If the US changes its position and allows free gas exports, then the markets may re-merge, but even with a few LNG terminals under construction that’s a long way from happening.
        US oil prices, of course, would shoot up.

      4. Tim L says:

        Really we are talking about F1, or have we moved to a global economic down turn discussion.

  5. nigel says:

    If Bernie doesnt show up for the court case, then an EAW (earopean arrest warrant) would be issued, which is valid in all EU countries. He would effectively be unable to visit Europe.

    If Bernie lost the court case and did a runner whilst on bail, then he would be a fugitive and an extradition request made to whichever country he was in. His passport would be withdrawn. He would then be limited to a very few number of countries. North Korea springs to mind….

    1. Sebee says:

      Sounds like Bernie may join the lobby to seperate UK for EU…for economic reasons and to keep The City competitive on a world stage of course. Seperation from EU jurisdiction…well, that will be just a convenient conincidence. :-)

      All jokes aside, as well as our views and suspicions, this is just starting to play out. The only evidence is testimony of a felon.

    2. iceman says:

      I’m sure Venezuela would put him up if he promised to buy everyone in the country a year’s supply of toilet paper.

      1. Quade says:

        That is very unfair (even offensive) to the Venezuelan people.

      2. puffing says:


      3. Tommo says:

        You’ll get over it.

      4. W Johnson says:

        Or signed up Venezuela on the F1 circuit.

    3. JoeP says:

      Why are you even speculating about Bernie not showing up? Men w/ as much money as Bernie don’t need to flee – they simply buy their way out, either directly, paying off the state, or employing as many of the best lawyers and former state officials as necessary to ensure their freedom.

      Just look at Lance Armstrong. He might face a whistleblower lawsuit, but he skated on criminal liability despite inarguable guilt…

      1. I know says:

        The difference to Mr. Armstrong’s case is that doping per se is not a criminal offence, so any criminal suit against him would have to be for perjury, where the statute of limitations has probably expired. He may or may not have used his influence to keep the doping secret, but the fact that he will probably never face criminal charges has nothing to do with the amount of money or the political influence he has.

        The corruption charges against Mr. Ecclestone have not expired, and there is no way he can “buy” his way out of a trial – he can delay proceedings, but he will ultimately be judged and found guilty or not guilty.

      2. Jake says:

        He has not been charged at this time, he has been indicted, there is a difference. Given the clandestine nature of these dealings there may not be sufficient evidence to bring charges.

  6. Justabloke says:

    My view is that in order to avoid bringing the sport in to disrupte he should stand down whilst he is defending his case. Whether I like him or not matters not. He has done a lot for F1 and I am sure he would be welcomed back if he can clear his name.

    I’m pretty sure sponsors won’t be happy if the sport ends up beign associated with this sort of “bribe”

  7. Sebee says:

    It sure has been a “hey, what’s under this rug” kind of a week so far.

    1. Sebee says:


      Seriously, a week of dirt being dug up.


  8. Oz Geeza says:

    Mr Allen, would be fair to say Mr Ellclestone
    will step aside till the matter is resolved?.
    does the F1 board of Directors has any say
    in the matter, which I believe Mr Luca d M is
    a board member,and if I recall LdM wants
    Bernie to retire.
    Any coments.

    1. James Allen says:

      As it says in the article, it will be interesting to see what the board decides. This could go on for a long time. The Gribkowsky case took a year or so to reach its conclusion

      1. Oz Geeza says:

        Thank you

  9. andrew says:

    The question is how long can Bernie drag this thing out. His advanced age may mitigate against him ever having to do jail time, if convicted. (Is one innocent until proven guilty in Germany? That’s the American presumption.) If so, he can continue running F1 while out on bail until the matter is resolved, many years from now.

    1. Mike84 says:

      The reality in America is you’re presumed ordinary (not innocent) until plausibly accused by someone in a position to make the accusation, and then you’re presumed guilty until proven innocent. Also while serving on juries I’ve heard jurors say, “We’re supposed to be trying to find him guilty”, and most in the room agreed.

      1. nicolas nogaret says:

        are you really american ? this is nonsense
        read coffin v USA , 1896

      2. Mike84 says:

        Yes, I’ve been American for 43 years and have served on American juries and have been in court enough times for myself also. I’m not talking about the official line, I’m talking about the reality, how things usually actually play out, not only in the courts but in society.

    2. I know says:

      Of course, there is the presumption of innocence in German law.

      However, if there is a reasonable chance for a conviction of an imprisonable offence, and if the suspect represents a flight risk, he may still be arrested and may or may not be granted bail.

    3. ManOnWheels says:

      Germany has the presumption of innocence, but German law also allows the detention of a suspect for a maximum of 6 months, if current investigations indicates a high probability of the suspect getting convicted, plus the suspect is likely flee, destroy evidence or influence witnesses. This detention is not in the hands of the police though, a judge has to decide it and there are legal ways to oppose his judgement.

  10. Jock Ulah says:

    If Bernie goes to gaol . . .

    He will immediately have part of it refurbished to a high standard.
    After a year or two he will buy the premises in order to further develop it and move it upmarket.
    His altruistic behaviour will ensure that he gets weekend-releases to attend all F1 events.

    So . . . Business as usual – who else is capable of running F1?

    1. Javier says:

      Let’s be honest here – Bernie never pays to have facilities upgraded. He’ll pressure someone else to do it at their expense so that he can monetize it. :-P

  11. K says:

    Suddenly every F1 fan and their mother is a scholar on laws. Isn’t that something.

    1. Mike84 says:

      They shoved that and more down our throats for enough years in school, and taught us to write persuasively at all times, even when we didn’t know what we were talking about. Remember?

    2. Javier says:

      We have years of practice interpreting FIA regulations, law is a breeze compared to that Byzantine contraption. This is not that we will get our law predictions any better or worse than our rule interpretations, just that we have a life time of experience doing this.

  12. Tinker Swift says:

    He’s very, very tiny, you know. When I saw a pic of his daughter Tamara in the Mail the other day I wondered if Bernie hadn’t already gone into hiding in one of her implants …

    1. Gul says:

      omg, i had to re-read….too funny.

    2. Quade says:

      Damn! :)

  13. IanC says:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  14. Japanese Sage says:

    I am sure all the teams will stay quiet, I think bribery is probably rife in F1 and I am not sure any of the teams would want to speak out against it.

    1. aveli says:

      have you not heard of cas for questions?
      it’s only called bribery when exposed.

  15. Lindsay says:

    “It’s a pity it’s happened.”

    You mean it’s a pity you got your collar felt?

  16. djmwr says:

    I don’t understand how the person who accepted the bribes is in prison for doing so, yet the person who paid the bribes can get away with the defence of “they weren’t bribes.” Surely they’ve already been proved as bribes in the previous case?

    Also, it can’t help your case when you are saying things like “I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things.” Is not paying money to influence a person’s judgement or views the very definition of a bribe?

  17. Luke Dalton says:

    Bernie has built F1 into the global brand that it now is, and that we should be thankful for, but he is now throttling the life out of it with his greed, killing off the history and tearing the soul out of it, driving up the price for the fans but cutting what they get, blocking Youtube vid’s left right and centre rather than embracing an method to share the history and spread the word of F1, cutting the teams a raw deal financially, Scrapping classic tracks for boring Tilke-dromes in countries with no F1 interest, but bags of money! Sorry Bernie, time to go, for Formula 1′s sake!

    1. Mike from Colombia says:

      Bernie or CVC ?

      1. DC says:

        CVC is only collecting the profits. It’s Bernie who runs the show.

  18. Richard D says:

    This case has been lurking for some time and I recall that there was a UK tax scam link up with it. Perhaps the next bit if news will be HMRC launching their case. Whatever happens the guy is 82 years old so maybe an opportune time for someone younger to take over?

  19. Scuderia McLaren says:

    “Men are not punished for their sins but by them.”
    - Elbert Hubbard

    Mr.E’s defense may be that he paid out of fear and didn’t pay as a bribe for financial gain, but ultimately that story is hardly going to float. If he was sure about his taxation position, as he says he is, he should have reported the guy immediately to the authorities and trusted the powers that be to treat a false tax accusation appropriately. He is hardly a man whom operates his life in fear and its going to be hard to believe that he paid money to save money out of fear of a false tax accusation. How disingenuous, but that’s what happens to most of us when we start clutching at straws. The UAE might have a new British resident soon…

  20. Phil R says:

    Is the German prison system privatised? If so could Bernie buy the jail he’s going to stay in first?

  21. vintly says:

    I hope Bernie escapes relatively unscathed, to continue leading the merry F1 circus. On the other hand it might be a good time to call it quits – as much as it seems that he wants to carry on for ever, or can’t imagine doing anything else, he MUST be getting a tired in his old age. He’s certainly not putting in as much time on the grid as he used to – which is a shame because he makes great TV.

  22. Peter Freeman says:

    I certainly hope justice is done. The notion that Mr. Gribkowski was put in jail on an arbitrary confession is fanciful thinking. The German court took a year to hear the case and found him guilty.

    I remember that Mr. E was given the broadcast rights for F1 for 100 years. Somehow I can find a way to see any truly full value payment for 100 years of F1. How was its value calculated and who arrived at this value to decide that Mr. E was paying fair value? So what happened?

    Every time F1 is sold for a new record sum of money, we the fans have to meet the expected return on the ‘new’ investment. So we have pay-tv and very high ticket prices for race day. Thank you Mr. E.

    I doubt we will see justice over the sale of F1 for 100 years and what it costs us now to watch our favourite sport, but perhaps the German courts will see Mr. E receive his just rewards for what he has done to F1.

  23. Kurtis says:

    let us not forget that he is a very old man and a successor should be in place or soon in place due to this fact let alone any potential conviction

    1. aveli says:

      is suttil not driving for force india albeit he has a conviction?
      ecclestone makes f1 work in a way that not many can do. to keep f1 progressing at the current rate, 10 people need to replace him.
      what surprises me is the fact that he admits that he bribed the banker but with a different motive. is it the motive or the bribe which is the criminal offence?

  24. Steve says:

    If Bernie goes to prison, is he going to become the Harry Grout of ‘D’ Block, taking a percentage for the rights to hold cockroach races?

  25. kevin green says:

    Well……..he wont get out of this one if it gets to run it’s course so i guess it’s taxi time for Bernie and believe me it will be him calling the shot……If anyone can figure what i mean.

  26. Kimi4WDC says:

    Germans indeed do love organisation and standards.

    They only developed country where from bribes being a tax deduction, you go on a witch hunt :) Poor Siemens comes to mind – but I’m sure their Latin America market share was worth every dollar they paid in fines, magnificent investment :)

  27. SEENAQLD says:

    didnt he just wave the fee 4 the german gp

  28. Adele says:

    Only appropriate song for MR E’s circumstances ;-)


    This is the end
    Hold your breath and count to ten
    Feel the earth move and then
    Hear my heart burst again

    For this is the end
    I’ve drowned and dreamed this moment
    So overdue, I owe them
    Swept away, I’m stolen

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together
    At skyfall

    Skyfall is where we start
    A thousand miles and poles apart
    When worlds collide, and days are dark
    You may have my number, you can take my name
    But you’ll never have my heart

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together
    At skyfall

    Where you go I go,
    What you see I see
    I know I’ll never be me, without the security
    Are your loving arms
    Keeping me from harm
    Put your hand in my hand
    And we’ll stand

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together

    Let the sky fall, when it crumbles
    We will stand tall
    Face it all together
    At skyfall

    Let the sky fall
    We will stand tall
    At skyfall

  29. NickD says:

    If he were ever convicted of anything, at his
    age they’d just put him under mansion arrest.
    He’d no doubt have several to choose from!

    1. Mike84 says:

      Maybe that’s the problem, when someone knows he’s probably exempt from jail time he does stuff he otherwise wouldn’t do.

  30. Matt W says:

    Ecclestone said (according to the BBC) “The tax risk would have exceeded £2bn. I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things”.

    That sounds awfully like a bribe. I’m sure some fancy lawyer will be able to spin that to show that he is in fact perfectly innocent.

    Personally I’d like to see some kind of investigation into the sale of the F1 TV rights. Bernie paid something like £100m for 100 year rights. Considering the UK TV deal alone was worth in the region of £40m, I am astonished as to how much the rights were under sold.

  31. Jason says:

    It’s hard to imagine this news having an immediate impact, but I could see some “adjustments” being made in terms of Ecclestone’s role and profile. F1 is bigger than any one man.


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