News World Witness to be recalled in Ecclestone trial

Witness to be recalled in Ecclestone trial

Bernie Ecclestone Formula One boss
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and his wife Fabiana Flosi Photo: Getty
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The star witness against Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is to be recalled to testify, a German court has ruled after questioning Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former banker who is serving prison time for bribe-taking.

Ecclestone, 83, admitted paying Gribkowsky $US44 million ($A47 million) but denied it was a bribe.

“I have the feeling that the defence still has some questions,” presiding Judge Peter Noll said as he discharged Gribkowsky after three days on the witness stand.

He is to return July 30.

The F1 boss’s lawyers have argued that Ecclestone paid the money out of fear and got no advantage from Gribkowsky, who was chief risk officer of the Bayern LB bank, which had a majority stake in F1.

Prosecutors have charged Ecclestone with corrupting a public official and inciting misappropriation.

They said the motive was to ensure London-based CVC, Ecclestone’s preferred investor, won control of F1.

Gribkowsky, 56, has essentially backed that up in his testimony, saying Ecclestone was worried he would lose his lucrative job as chief executive of F1 if a hostile investor took over.

But Gribkowsky has held back from saying CVC, a private-equity fund, bought F1 at less than market value, and denied that anyone had topped CVC’s bid.

Bayern LB sold its stake in F1, acquired in a mortgage foreclosure, for $US840 million to CVC in 2006.

Noll read an email from Bluewater, another bidder, that said it was offering 1 billion euros for the stake and would overbid any rival offer by 10 per cent. Gribkowsky responded he could not remember that email.

In 2012, Noll sentenced Gribkowsky to eight and a half years in prison for accepting a bribe.

The trial is set to conclude September 16.