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Jailed banker tells German court that Ecclestone bribed him

May 13, 2014, 12:41 PM EST

Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the High Court in central London in this file photo Reuters

Today in Munich, imprisoned banker Gerhard Gribkowsky told a courtroom that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone gave him a $44 million bribe over the sale of a stake in the sport.

Ecclestone is accused of giving that alleged bribe to Gribkowsky in order to help move along the sale of German bank BayernLB’s former F1 stake to CVC Capital Partners almost a decade ago.

Gribkowsky, now the star witness for the prosecution, is serving an eight-and-a-half year jail sentence for accepting the money and for tax evasion.

Ecclestone has admitted to the payments, but has consistently maintained that Gribkowsky was threatening to make false reports about him to tax authorities.

According to Reuters, Gribkowsky – who started giving evidence in the trial last Friday – said through an interpreter that “the offer clearly came from him,” meaning Ecclestone.

He also added, “I had a carrot dangled in front of me. I grabbed the carrot.”

As for the matter of what Ecclestone expected in return for the payment, Gribkowsky said “that remained vague.”

Additionally, the banker admitted to spreading rumors about Ecclestone’s tax status but denied the allegations of blackmail from the British billionaire, who faces not only a possible 10-year jail term but the end of his decades-long reign over F1.

“We didn’t have anything concrete,” Gribkowsky said on those rumors. “It was mainly nuisance value.”

Last November, CVC (which owns a 35 percent stake in the sport) said that it was ready to fire Ecclestone if he is found guilty of any charges against him.

“He told me he had never lied to me and I must say that I had trouble believing you could forget payment of $40 million,” CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie told the High Court in London at that time.

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