Bernie Ecclestone’s run of good form in court continued on Wednesday.
Already this week, as the F1 supremo’s trial resumed in Munich, the testimony of a former BayernLB official seemed to indicate weaknesses in the prosecution’s claim that he bribed Gerhard Gribkowsky. On Wednesday, the good news continued for the 83-year-old. On the stand was Frederique Flournoy, a Swiss lawyer and director of Ecclestone’s family trust Bambino.
Ecclestone has argued that he paid the $44 million to Gribkowsky only because the jailed former banker was threatening him over his personal tax affairs. “Gribkowsky could have gone to the (tax authorities) which would have prompted them to rebound the investigation or issue a tax bill against whoever based on him as a witness,” Flournoy explained.
Judge Peter Noll, however, told Flournoy he finds it “very difficult to comprehend” that Ecclestone took Gribkowsky’s alleged threats seriously. But Flournoy replied that UK authorities have “extreme powers”, and so Ecclestone was rightly nervous about the prospect of an investigation. “You can never be sure what the interpretation will be in the end,” said Flournoy. “We as lawyers know how difficult it is to prove that something isn’t the case.”
And yet another bit of good news for Ecclestone is judge Noll’s apparent admission that the diminutive Briton – if he did bribe Gribkowsky – might not have known he was actually bribing a public official. According to DPA news agency, Noll seems to suspect that Ecclestone – like many others – presumed BayernLB was not state-owned but merely a “normal” commercial bank. The penalties for bribing public officials are considerably higher.