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German prosecutors accept F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone $100m court deal in bribery case
Bernie Ecclestone
Posted By: Editor   |  05 Aug 2014   |  12:24 pm GMT  |  220 comments

Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone’s trial in Munich has ended. German prosecutors have accepted Ecclestone’s offer to make a $100m payment to bring to a close his trial on bribery charges.

“A prosecution of the accused due to bribery is not probable as things stand,” said the court statement. Ecclestone’s defence lawyers said that the arrangement kept his presumed innocence intact.

Ecclestone, who was in court for the decision, went on trial in April, over allegations he bribed former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky as part of the sale of a major stake in Formula 1 eight years ago.

If found guilty, the 83-year-old could have faced 10 years in prison, bringing to an end his involvement at the helm of Formula 1.

Gribkowsky had already been found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust and is serving an eight-and-a-half year sentence. He was convicted by the judge who presided over Ecclestone’s trial – Peter Noll. Ecclestone always maintained his innocence. He said that the payment to Gribkowsky was blackmail, as the former banker had threatened to make allegations to the UK tax authorities.

Under German law, defendants can settle some criminal cases with smaller punishments, such as fines. The legal proviso exists to ease the burden on the courts and deal with cases where judgement could be difficult.

According to Wall Street Journal, “Under the German Code of Criminal Procedure, prosecutors can agree to drop a case in exchange for such conditions as a fine or community work, as long as the “gravity of guilt” doesn’t pose an obstacle.”

Ecclestone’s advanced age and other mitigating circumstances gave grounds for the offer to be accepted, according to the prosecutors.

Bernie Ecclestone and Niki Lauda

Ecclestone, 83, told Press Association: “The bottom line is it’s been three and a half years of aggravation, travelling, meeting lawyers, and God knows what else, so it is good it is out of the way.

“This trial has been going on for two days a week and it was going to go on until October. When you’re trying to run businesses it’s not easy trying to resolve things when you’re dealing with lawyers.

“In the end what has happened today is good and bad; the good is the judge more or less said I was acquitted, and they [the prosecution] really didn’t have a case.

“So I was a bit of an idiot to do what I did to settle because it wasn’t with the judge, it was with the prosecutors.

“Anyway, it’s done and finished, so it’s all right. I’m contented, it’s all fine.

“This now allows me to do what I do best, which is running F1.

“Another three months out would have been bad. I’ve been working weekends to catch up with what I’ve been missing during the week.

“I’ve not really noticed, but it’s probably taken its toll a little bit.”

Speaking before the decision, Mercedes chief Niki Lauda said: “I would only welcome it [the decision] if Bernie can concentrate on Formula 1 and together with the teams solve the existing problems. If Bernie stops, it would have been a disaster for Formula 1.

“He has built everything up over three decades and is the only one who knows everything — the business, the details of the teams. Everything is in his head.

“If all the allegations are gone from the table, then Bernie has done everything right. Then all the speculation ends. Continuity is very important at the top of Formula 1 for the future.”

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Whatever spin you put on the outcome of this case and Bernie’s guilt/ innocence, he doesn’t come out of it smelling of roses. He is well beyond retirement age so I think it is time that he stood down from his role in F1 and spend his remaining years enjoying the billions he has extracted from the sport.


Bernie is a determined man and along the way of a long and successful career he would of made some bad choices, paid people more than they should just to make things happen and this goes on daily with big businesses, just look at the banks with fixing rates, over charging, ppi and giving money to people who could not give it back. Did any go to prison?

Its a big “donation”, its not a fine as that would be guilt. Don’t worry for Bernie, I’m sure most if not all will be written off in tax and it may not even be Bernie paying, he is needed to run f1, like him or not, but there are a lot of investors who rely on him.

Us Brits should be proud of what he has done in keeping f1 teams and the running of the sport in the UK, like him or not or the choices he has made, he is an asset to the country and someone who hasn’t ran off to a tax free haven to work from. Thumbs up from me and I know anyone else in his situation would do the same.


All the people who claim this is moraly wrong, I hope when you get stopped for speeding you take the fixed penalty fine and not the option to attend a seminar for the charges to be dropped.

The German’s did better out of this deal then Bernie, they have $100mil added to there economy insteed of paying to keep an old man or getting nothing. both sides will be happy with this outcome.


Money talks.


that is the law in germany, not only for the rich people. In articles it is stated this law was applied about 60,000 times in 2013. The fine depends on your income.

ie: you make 4000 a month and get involved in a car accident or so, get sued for like 40,000 Euros. At some point one side says, pay 8,000 Euros and you are free to go. Of course, if you think you are innocent, you can go all the long way until the verdict, but that still might be very expensive when the judge says “guilty”….


Gribkowsky isn’t a prisoner anymore. He only spend 2 years full time in a pretrial imprisonment and is already on day parole since October 2013. After 25% of your verdict you can file an application for “Freigang” ->day parole. That is what he did and that is surely what Uli Hoeneß will do in November…

Gribkowsky only comes back for sleeping to a prison like institution at 10 o’clock in the evening. At 7a.m he is free to go again. He can make millions in that time, go to the zoo or watching cartoons the whole day. But he already found a new job and is working in the financial department for an austrian construction company (“Strabag” his former employer) in munich… From the 30 millions so far he paid back 9 millions to BayernLB.



Formula 1 brands it’s self as the epitome of motor sports, but it fails to include corruption as part of its mantra.


So this leaves me with 2 questions…

1. If I remember correctly he was saying that he had no control of the trust fund in his wife name so as to avoid tax implications, if this is the case where is he going to get the money from to pay the “fine”, surely his ability to pay this fine should have the UK tax man looking into his affairs in more detail?

2. After his trial in London weren’t other companies looking to sue him in regards to this deal, if he is now not guilty where does that leave these companies and their possible court actions against him?

kenneth chapman

in answer to your first question……simply ask slavica for a loan. judging by their reported relationship i doubt whether she’d knock him back.

Kieran Donnelly

Not guilty but certainly not innocent!

The man lacks any sort of credibility or trustworthiness but the teams seem happy to line up behind him and the sponsors, who preach about corporate social responsibility, seem happy for them to do so.

All about talking the talk …

Kieran Donnelly

In reply to Kenneth above: Yes, of course, most people here would do whatever it took to stave off a prosecution of any kind, especially if there was a custodial sentence involved, but you also have to then ask how many of us have found ourselves in such a situation in the first place? And some people, if their prosecution is regarding a point of principle, will do little to defend themselves? There are a number of questions and actions hanging over Bernie but he has slipped away from them by paying €100 million, which is less than 1/40th. I feel sorry for the banker that got 8 and 1/2 years in the same saga. If he’d only been allowed to pay €1 million out the €33 million that he got then he’d have proportionately paid a little more than Bernie and could have stayed out of jail. Hardly seems fair! Anyway, although I’ll no doubt continue to watch it, having him resume his pseudo-despotic reign is another piece of tarnish on the sport of F1. After the chicanery of Jean-Marie Balestre and Bernie Ecclestone, the sport really needs a more modern, even and balanced approach in its direction

kenneth chapman

@ kieran…..people are dumping on bernie but if anything they should be dumping on the ‘system’ that allows this to occur. bernie has simply taken up the offer [enshrined in german law] to purchase a ticket out of there. you would, i would, everyone would. i don’t quite know where it all starts and stops but maybe this option is open to all and sundry? very interesting.

Kieran Donnelly

[edit] … which is less than 1/40th of his overall wealth.

Also I should have used dollars rather than euro, otherwise I’m implying that he paid even more than he did (€100m = $133m)


I am amazed this is allowed to happen, even if it is Germany’s own law.

Imagine if Rolf Harris could pay £1million to end his child abuse court in the UK.


The Germans were stupid – they should have asked for $3 billion and cleaned Bernie out. He can choose to pay or rot in jail for the next 20 yrs.


Opinion. Knowledge. Know the difference.


Money. No money. Spot the discrepancy.


FIFA, step aside….there’s a new game in town!


“Ecclestone’s defence lawyers said that the arrangement kept his presumed innocence intact.”

It’s funny, in South Africa, we too can avoid court proceedings for minor offences by paying an Admission of Guilt fine. Surely, this “settlement” of Bernies is just that?

No matter what though, I don’t see the big issue about it. It’s not like he slaughtered innocent children. He basically just conducted business in the same way that business is actually conducted, just on a bigger scale, that’s all.

kenneth chapman

after wading through all these posts it appears that a vast majority are ‘morally outraged’. now i’m certainly not to say that all these arguments are without merit but i would say this, ‘if it were you in bernie’s shoes, and that includes all his worldly possessions, would you in all honesty have done anything different? offer up a ‘mia culpa’ and take whatever the court decides to do with you ? c’mon chaps, let’s have some balance here.



if it were you in bernie’s shoes…..

Of course no one would have done anything different, certainly not me. If I was in the sh#t and could get off the hook by paying, in BE terms, an insignificant fine then I would bite the prosecutors arm off at the shoulder , say thanks very much and be on my way!

But that’s not the reason for the moral outrage. It’s due to the fact that, on the face of it, a wealthy man can buy his way out of a criminal prosecution. If he committed the crime then he should be found guilty and if he didn’t then he should have been found innocent – that’s what courts do, determine guilt or innocence. Personally, I have a very difficult time understanding how the receiver of a bribe is serving 8 years in prison and the person alleged to have made the bribe does not have to even finish his trial and just walks away with a very slightly lighter wallet.

kenneth chapman

@C63….your point re the grib is identical to posts that i have made in the past. how can one be labelled a ‘bribee’ if there is no ‘briber’. in this instance the grib should be pardoned and given some restitution for false imprisonment. of course this will not happen as it would appear that BE is neither guilty or innocent…just in lawful limbo land…….i think.


It’s disgusting that status and money more than guilt determine who gets let off and who gets jailed.


I think Bernie’s judgement will have to wait for God to deal with. Shame we won’t be there to see it.


Has it occurred to anyone that this was probably the Prosecutors’ idea because it was now doubtful they could win a case. Also in the gains-vs-loss scenario… if the Prosecutors win (which was already in doubt), their prize would be an 83 year old jail inmate.

If they were to lose the case, the Prosecutors would be immortalized as having been defeated by Bernie Ecclestone.

Maybe this settlement was the Proesecutors’ idea then? The system gains 100 million USD, they have a “nobody won, nobody lost” statement… and can just go on with their lives.


Ecclestone’s lawyer is reported to have said that the prosecutors approached them about a settlement, rather than the other way around


Exactly. It makes sense. If the Prosecutors approached Ecclestone and his team of lawyers because they were seeing their case beaten. Bernie would have a number of choices.

1) Stick it to the Prosecutors and defeat them eventually in an honest way. But see the case drag on into October. Which is critical as F1 is suffering from a drop in popularity which he would like to pay more attention to now.


2) Put the Prosecutors out of their misery by accepting an offer to make a settlement and Bernie can then get on with F1. He knows fully well doing so probably let the Prosecutors off the hook. But he’ll just have to live with it. The problem being he’ll of course be seen as escaping a bribery charge by paying a bribe. Yet he cannot deny that maybe F1 needs him now and cannot be made to suffer another three months without him paying more attention.

Ultimately Bernie may actually interpret this motion as a “sacrifice” (to his public image… of which he has made more than a few) for the sake of his F1 empire.


$100 million fine plus NR WDC ?, germans did it great!


You’re a Hamilton fan, right?


Don’t think our comments can change anything so let’s enjoy the season and the future as best as we can.


Yup I was one one of the moaners but there is nothing we can do so I’m with you, forwards to Belgium


Two things

1. This does not come as a surprise. In many countries for legal situations there is a rule for the rich and a rule for the rest. Its not the first time or the last where a rich person can get a ‘beneficial’ result for themselves. As far as i am concerned BE doesn’t like to give away a $1 yet along 100mil of them so that is an admission of guilt to me.

2. There is truly only one Bernie Ecclestone. The mould was lost years ago. He is the ultimate Mr Teflon-man.

Now BE certainly has built F1 to where it is now. But is it in a position where it is growing or ‘dying’? Latest discussions we all see is that there is a lot of negativity and knee jerk decisions being made ‘for the show’.

Personally i see F1 changing too much and silly decisions being made .

BE legacy is quickly losing its shine and new blood needs to be brought into f1 leaders to stabilise and take it forward.

He needs to move on BUT i don’t think he sees it that way.


No need to have a go at James. He’s stating the facts which are that the court failed to prove Bernie was guilty (ie. no decision either way). Even if we all highly suspect he was guilty we can’t say it as fact without a conviction.


F1 with Bernie is like a freak show [mod] I know I should turn away but I can’t help but watch it. We as in the F1 public could get rid of Bernie but he knows we won’t turn away for long enough. They say F1 is a business but in reality no. F1 is a group of entities that come together for a sport/spectacle. Bernie took something that was already popular and monetized it no more. Like Football the popularity was already predetermined all Sep did was divert the cash flow. So to all the people who say look all the good Bernie has done it would have happened anyway. [mod]


Truly a disgusting way for a criminal court to work. I hope the German people don’t believe they live in a country where all are equal in the eyes of the law.

I was hoping we had seen the last of Ecclestone. He is the biggest, single problem with F1.


Finally, hes payed them off. I bet that Lewis’ car ‘suddenly’ becomes reliable again.


Don’t get the connection. Please explain.


I only ever follow formula 1 for the sport itself and don’t pay much attention to the politics and power fighting. But you can’t help but realise that there are some people who can buy justice in this world. It does leave a sour taste in the mouth, that when most of us would have gone to jail for the lighest of infringements, others just use their money to wriggle their way out of jail. What an unfair world it is, Mr Allen?


I’ll answer for James – “yes”

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