Ecclestone wins F1 damages case but did pay 'bribe', judge rules

Mr Ecclestone had been accused  of entering into a "corrupt agreement" with a banker to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 Group to a buyer chosen by him

Formula 1 motorsport boss Bernie Ecclestone was described as not a "reliable or truthful" witness by a High Court judge today despite winning a legal fight with a German media company.

Mr Justice Newey also said that Ecclestone, 83, had paid a bribe over a sale of F1 shares.

The criticisms came in a written ruling on a dispute between Mr Ecclestone and Constantin Medien at a High Court hearing in London.

Mr Ecclestone had been accused  of entering into a "corrupt agreement" with a banker to facilitate the sale of the Formula 1 Group to a buyer chosen by him.

Constantin Medien said it lost out as a result of the deal and wanted tens of millions of pounds in compensation.

Mr Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula 1 Group, said Constantin Medien's claim "lacks any merit" and denied any conspiracy.

The judge dismissed the claim today.

But he concluded that payments made were a "bribe".

He said they were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a "corrupt agreement" with the banker in 2005.

But he said no loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused and therefore the company's claim failed.

The judge heard that Constantin wanted around £80 million damages.

Lawyers for Constantin Medien said payments totalling about £27 million were made to Gerhard Gribkowsky - who was a "senior ranking official" at a German bank - at the instigation of Mr Ecclestone.

And they said a "corrupt arrangement" was entered into between Mr Ecclestone and Dr Gribkowsky in 2005.

Mr Ecclestone gave a different version of events.

He told the judge that he paid Dr Gribkowsky £10 million because the banker insinuated that he would create difficulties with tax authorities.

The judge heard evidence at a trial in London last year and handed down a ruling today.

Mr Ecclestone, who is facing trial in Germany later this year after being accused of bribery - those allegations also centre around claims relating to Dr Gribkowsky, was not at today's hearing.

"Even ... making allowances for the lapse of time and Mr Ecclestone's age, I am afraid that I find it impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness," said Mr Justice Newey, in a written ruling.

"The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005."

But the judge added: "No loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr Gribkowsky. That fact is fatal to the claim."

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