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Ecclestone wins in London court but judge says F1 boss ‘paid bribe’
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Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  20 Feb 2014   |  2:26 pm GMT  |  45 comments

Bernie Ecclestone has won his London High Court battle with a German media company, but despite victory the F1 boss was described as a “not reliable or truthful” witness by the judge in the case, Mr Justice Newey, who also ruled that the 83-year-old had paid a bribe over the sale of the Formula 1 Group.

Ecclestone had been accused of entering into a “corrupt agreement” with German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 Group to a buyer chosen by him. Media group Constantin Medien alleged it lost out as a result of the deal and sought damages in excess of $100 million.

Ecclestone always maintained that Constantin’s allegations “lack any merit” and this morning the company’s claim was dismissed by the High Court.

However, in a written ruling, Justice Newey concluded that Ecclestone had paid a bribe when organising the sale of shares in F1 to private equity firm CVC.

“Even … making allowances for the lapse of time and Mr Ecclestone’s age, I am afraid that I find it impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness,” the statement read.

“The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005.”

However, the judge concluded that “no loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr Gribkowsky. That fact is fatal to the claim”.

It is believed that Constantin Medien intends to appeal the decision.

 

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45 Comments
  1. Matthew Taylor says:

    That can’t bode well for Bernie’s trial in Germany later this year. As wins go, it sounds rather damning. Different legal systems and burdens of proof may impact the eventual outcome I suppose, but it looks worrying to me.

  2. Andrew S says:

    Justice Newey? No relation to Adrian?

  3. Howard P says:

    “Mr Justice Newey”

    This made ma laugh! I was picturing Adrian Newey with a wig.

    1. Werewolf says:

      “I was picturing Adrian Newey with a wig.”

      It would compromise the aerodynamics of his pate!

    2. Messrine says:

      I concur!

  4. Wellbalanced says:

    I’m not sure Bernie is going to be deliriously happy after this ruling. The claimant’s claim may be spurious, but it cannot be comforting, given the upcoming criminal trial in Germany, to have a High Court judge deciding that, more likely than not, he accepted a bribe. It is not an enormous leap from there for a German court to decide, to the higher criminal standard, the same.

    NB I heard mention, though I didn’t understand it, that Bernie was hoping to ‘settle’ for c. £200m his criminal prosecution in Germany. What word on that?

    1. chris says:

      more bribery?

  5. Julian Smallwood says:

    Justice Newey? I think we should be told more….

  6. Igor says:

    Amazing. The media company didn’t lose money, but it was forbidden to make money by honest profits, which means for me that they actually lost money. It’s a matter of logic, the judge should’ve had work to write this sentence. It seams like some politicians trying to explain what cannot be explained…C’mon, must have had some prejudice if they were really a big player during negotiations.

    1. s says:

      if no one made a higher bid, then they couldn’t have had the chance of getting more money from the deal, can they.

      1. Igor says:

        In an auction, if I (the buyer) have an agreement with the house and split the money with the seller, of course I can pay more, I could even know things that others doesn’t know, and they would be affraid to offer more. So, it wasn’t cool…

  7. Chris Rowley says:

    BCE slips thru their grasp again, You have to admire this 2nd hand car dealer

  8. Peter Freeman says:

    So a high court judge says Bernie paid a bribe, same as the German court that convicted the bribe taker.

    When will the sale of the F1 rights for 100 years for a ridiculously small sum of money be investigated? What did Mosley get, if anything, for selling the F1 rights for 100 years? Does 100 years sound like a sensible period of time to make such an agreement over?

    Where there is fire, they may be more fire. One highly corrupt bribe has been exposed in court, twice. Are there others, just maybe?

    1. Random 79 says:

      I don’t understand this either:

      The judge says Bernie’s not reliable, not truthful, is adamant that he was guilty of the bribe…and then he walks?

      How does that even work?

      1. chris says:

        civil case so never any chance of incarceration

      2. Gaz Boy says:

        Not in the UK anyway………..German Republic may be different though.

      3. Werewolf says:

        This was a civil case. The only issue was whether Ecclestone was responsible for any specific loss to the plaintiff and the court decided he was not. The judge’s observations on his integrity are another matter entirely.

        If the German criminal court, albeit with different rules and burdens of proof to UK courts, reaches the same conclusions as Justice Newey, then Ecclestone has serious problems; as do CVC and the various companies involved in F1′s promotion, particularly if the FIA can find a watertight way to end the 100-year agreement (a minefield in reality).

        It’s easy to see some people gleefully milking all this but F1 is the likely loser, especially with Formula E poised to receive both the FIA’s blessing and that of an environmentally aware younger generation disenamoured with F1′s politics, finances and disregard for its viewers. Unless, of course, another charismatic ‘benevolent dictator’ (as Ecclestone used to be), can be found to hold the whole dysfunctional wonder together.

      4. Aaron says:

        The case wasn’t about whether or not bribes were paid. The judge said that Constantin had not shown that he had incurred any losses as a direct result of Ecclestone’s actions. If you can’t prove you lost out financially then there is nothing to be compensated for.

      5. Random 79 says:

        Cheers for the input and info guys :)

        I just have a basic lack of understanding of how courts work, which is not necessarily a bad thing :)

    2. Sven says:

      Mosely [mod] moved to Monaco
      after the sale by FIA of the F1 rights.
      There have been some talk of Todt having tried to question the deal after he moved into office but had to give it up.

  9. aveli says:

    nature will always take its course, nor matter how hard people try to cheat nature. were vettel and redbull helped by ecclestone to win those championships? it’s a shame we can’t take that to court.
    we’ll have to wait to find out the outcome of the april hearing in germany. he could be found not guilty or otherwise. time will tell.

  10. Dingle Dell says:

    Soldier on Bernie, your time is not up yet…

  11. Gaz Boy says:

    Bernie found not guilty by Mr Newey? Blimey, I know F1 is somewhat close knit community, but not to that extent…….
    On a serious note, I didn’t think the UK High Court would find Mr E guilty because, well, he is Mr E and his reputation proceeds him doesn’t it?

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Nudge-nudge, wink wink

  12. Dave P says:

    Ecclestone wins?…. Really?

    Basically the judge said he was guilty… but simply the plaintive could not prove they lost money. That does not mean he won….it means he was not ordered to pay damages… thats a different thing.

    I am sure this will mean a more difficult job for him in Germany.

    1. hippyneil says:

      Yes, he won this court case. Although this was not about paying a bribe but rather the undervaluation of Formula 1 as a business. The “bribe” accusation is a separate, although connected, case.

      1. chris says:

        I disagree, what happened is the plaintiff didn’t win. BE can’t win as he was never claiming anything in law, just that the case brought was false. Think of it as a medieval army trying to storm a castle. Just because they didnt take it, doesn’t mean they the ramparts intact, and there weren’t any gaping holes in the walls.

      2. Dave P says:

        Yep.. you said it better than me. I feel that insted of somehow saying BE won.. which as you correctly say he never could win, the exact opposite happened… he LOST his credibilty…

    2. Aaron says:

      This wasn’t a criminal trial. The judge ruled that Constantin could not show that he suffered any financial losses as a direct result of Ecclestone’s actions. If you can’t prove you lost out financially then there is no case for compensation.

  13. Witan says:

    This judgement is as serious problem for F1. It says that its commercial rights holder’s ring master pays bribes and is unreliable in court.

    Not the sort of sound reputation one might expect for a multi-billion pound business.

    And, yes, all past deals which look too good to be true might slide into the spotlight if this court action continues and other individuals or organisations might come out of the woodwork to challenge earlier episodes.

    Could be very nasty indeed.

    As so often with these long term high flying businesses: when they go, they really blow and do lots of collateral damage.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Well said. Will any new potential sponsors be having second thoughts about being involved with a business model run by a man who has been officially confirmed as being corrupt, if not actually sentenced for corruption in the UK at least?
      Trouble brewing in F1? Very possibly.

    2. Mark says:

      I think it’s more of a serious problem for BE. While he’s done much for F1 over the years, and for that he should get our thanks

      increasingly he’s done everything but sell F1 to Vince McMahon and rename it Formula Awesome RaCing Entertainment.

      Man made wet races, the medal system, shifting races so that while they happen live at almost reasonable hours of EU time – they take place during monsoons and get red flagged, double points for last race, double points for last 3 races, the now we have it – now we don’t cost control cap, freezing development rules and stifling genuine innovation in things like engine technology, railing against a technological leap when it’s finally brought in …

      I can’t see BE remaining in charge of F1 by the start of the first race. I think it’s time he went and we got some new blood in.

    3. SimonR says:

      Its never been anything but a PR problem for FIFA all these years. I wonder if BE can get away with the same sort of ‘it wasn’t illegal then’ excuses the other crooks use.

  14. sunny stivala says:

    As slippery as an eel, but even an eel can and will be caught.

    1. distant viewer says:

      Don’t insult eels :o) Bernie’s been great for F1 but his time is up move along old man , he reminds me of a typical rich old guy they break rules to serve themselves because they don’t give a damn about weather its right or wrong they just get the result THEY want!

  15. Goggomobil says:

    As certain as the Sun will rise for some tomorrow, Bernie Ecclestone is gonski when he appears in German Court come April 24th,it’s a very Court that has find the Dr Gribkowsky of corrupt dealings with Bernie Ecclestone.
    The German Judge can’t ignore the fact that a member country of EU high court Judge find him
    not truthful and had paid bribe,yup live by greed and the consequence awaits.
    It would not surprise the CVC appointing a new CEO of FOM in next couple of weeks.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Corruption and bribery allegations are taken very seriously in Germany and the Nordic countries. They like to keep their business dealings as transparent as possible, so yes, I agree, the case for defending Mr E does look very steep indeed.

  16. Dave says:

    What kind of a legal system permits a Judge to make allegations in a trial for something that was not the bribery case. He wasn’t on trial for making or not making a bribe. As Ecclestone’s reply says, Gribkowsky was not even called to testify, so how can a Judge render a personal verdict based on incomplete information? Looks like a set-up.

  17. kenneth chapman says:

    surely the original case was indelibly linked to a’bribe’ as that of itself was the basis for medien’s claim for lost profits.

    if i have read this judgment correctly, a bribe was paid but not at the expense of medien’s possible profits.

    a while back when we were discussing this issue i simply couldn’t understand how the grib was busted for accepting a bribe when a lot of people suggested that BE didn’t make one! it has now become marginally clearer and the brit judge has found that in the course of the trial that BE did bribe the grib. is that some sort of confirmation?

  18. Darren says:

    By the sounds of it they are well aware he is a liar and a crook but they couldn’t find him guilty. Hopefully the German legal system allows for him to be done. F1 really needs to get rid of him, his hoarding of TV money for himself and his backers, and his hairbrained ideas.

  19. Phil says:

    Nobody else think that Bernie is too rich to go to jail?

    1. Random 79 says:

      He’s definitely too rich to bother collecting his £200 as he passes go…but I bet you he still would ;)

  20. sunny stivala says:

    Mr F1 should enjoy it while it lasts.

  21. Truth or Lies says:

    Looks like Mr. E is starting his final lap in the lead. Next time round he’ll be a back market.

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