Ecclestone: banker was like 'Sword of Damocles'

Mr Gribkowsky had strong designs on replacing Mr Ecclestone as Formula One boss

Munich

The banker who blackmailed Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone into paying him millions was like a "Sword of Damocles" for the motor racing manager and made no secret of a burning ambition to oust him as the sport's top representative, a Munich court was told yesterday.

Mr Ecclestone, 81, appeared in a German court for the second day as a witness in the trial of the Munich banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is charged with tax evasion, corruption and bribery. He is accused of blackmailing the Formula One chief into paying him £27.5m in 2006 by threatening to disclose delicate financial details about a family trust to the Inland Revenue.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Gribkowsky had strong designs on replacing Mr Ecclestone as Formula One boss and turned up at dozens of motor racing events as a regular guest. "He fell in love with Formula One," Mr Ecclestone told the court. "He acted as if he wanted to become Formula One boss."

The court heard how during the years prior to the Formula One sale to the private equity group CVC Capital Partners in early 2006, Mr Gribkowsky created a role for himself as one of Mr Ecclestone's advisers and made no secret of his ambitions. At a key Formula One meeting in Barcelona, Mr Gribkowsky was said to have deliberately taken the seat normally occupied by Mr Ecclestone. "He sat in it and promptly lit up a cigar," Mr Ecclestone said.

As Mr Gribkowsky realised he stood little chance of realising his Formula One ambitions, he became increasingly like a "Sword of Damocles" for Mr Ecclestone. He repeatedly insinuated that he would reveal unfounded allegations about Bambino, a private trust set up by Mr Ecclestone for his ex-wife, to the Inland Revenue.

The Formula One manager said he deeply feared the disclosures would have prompted an investigation which could have forced him to pay back tax in excess of £2bn. He decided it would be better to pay Mr Gribkowsky "hush money". "If someone is threatening you, even in a nice way, then you need to get rid of that threat," he said.

The Inland Revenue cleared Mr Ecclestone of any liability for back tax for Bambino in 2008. However, Mr Ecclestone said that in 2006 he had not been certain the trust had been set up correctly.

Yesterday's hearing also threw light on the lavish lifestyle of Mr Ecclestone and his family and the close relations Mr Gribkowsky formed with the Formula One chief's Croatian ex-wife, Slavica. Mr Ecclestone revealed that he was infuriated after finding that his wife had squandered £12m on the wedding of his daughter Petra in Italy. "I thought this was absurd," Mr Ecclestone said.

Mr Gribkowsky, it emerged, was a "drinking companion" for Slavica Ecclestone. The two were said to have spent hours at race meetings, talking in a motorised home. "I think my wife was trying to find out if I had any girlfriends," Mr Ecclestone said, "I had one," he admitted to the court.

Mr Gribkowsky denies blackmail and claims the payments were consultancy fees. If convicted he faces a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London