Bernie Ecclestone. Photo via Ryan Bayona under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Enlarge Photo
As if Formula 1 weren't already as much a technological soap opera as a race series, the series' boss, Bernie Ecclestone, is adding some extra drama to the 2013 season, this time with an indictment for bribery in Germany.
A German prosecutor filed the indictment over Ecclestone's dealings with banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, including a $44 million payment that the German authorities believe to have been a bribe. The payment was made surrounding the sale of Formula 1 to CVC Capital Partners in 2005 as Ecclestone sought to acquire the shares held by Gribkowsky's bank, BayernLB.
Ecclestone's lawyers told the Associated Press (via Fox News
) that his lawyers have received the indictment, but that it only means "they have to reply to the indictment, which they are strenuously doing."
This isn't Bernie's first brush with the long arm of the law. This particular situation has been brewing since 2011
, when Bernie admitted to making the payment to Gribkowsky. Ecclestone maintained then (and presumably does so now) that the payment wasn't a bribe, but was in fact an extortion payment to Gribkowsky.
German prosecutors allege Ecclestone didn't just pay Gribkowsky--they say the F1 chief also received about $41 million in commissions from the bank in return for the payment, plus an undisclosed payment into a family trust.
In 2012, Gribkowsky admitted to taking the money
from Ecclestone and was found guilty of tax evasion and bribery, earning an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence
Ecclestone has also faced a lawsuit in the U.S.
over the matter, brought by Bluewaters, which was competing to purchase the BayernLB shares of Formula 1.
After the indictment this week, Ecclestone said he has done "nothing illegal."