Ecclestone Back in Pole Position
27 August 2014 by Lucinda Stacey
This month the Formula One (‘F1’) chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone has paid £60 million to settle his bribery trial that was recently held in Germany. This is a result of the Formula One chief going on trial for bribery and incitement to breach of trust, for bribing a BayernLB bank executive. Mr Ecclestone bribed the banker in an attempt to ensure that F1 was sold to a private equity group of Ecclestone’s choice, meaning he would maintain his hold over the lucrative sport.
This appears to be, an expensive, yet simple way out of the predicament. The settlement is valid in German criminal cases if both the prosecution and the aggrieved parties reach an agreement. Mr Ecclestone was reported to have offered £20 million in settlement initially which rose steeply to £60 million in a bid to avoid incarceration. Mr Gerhard Gribkowsky, the Bayern Landesbank banker who was paid £20 million by Ecclestone, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in 2012 for accepting bribes. If the settlement was not agreed and Ecclestone had been found guilty, he could have faced a 10 year prison term which would certainly have signalled the end of his four-decade control over Formula 1.
There was, however, speculation that even if Ecclestone avoided a prison sentence but was still found guilty (not the case in the end), he would not remain in charge of F1. Bernie Ecclestone is a figure-head for Formula 1 motor racing after a long and successful career. Ecclestone, who initially denied any wrongdoing with the bribery charges, has continued to run Formula 1 on a day-to-day basis, despite the allegations. Formula 1 is watched by over 450 million TV viewers globally, highlighting the success of Ecclestone’s efforts at promoting the sport. As now seems likely though, Eccelstone is back in poll position to remain at the helm for a good while yet.
Bribery in the UK comes under the Bribery Act 2011 which came into force in July 2011. This relatively new act has only a few prosecutions brought recently by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who is the main prosecutor with responsibility for enforcing the bribery act.
If you have any questions relating to bribery please contact our Corporate and Commercial team on 01245 584515.
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