German banker gets 8.5 years in Ecclestone F1 bribery case

A German court sentenced a former bank boss to eight and a half years in prison Wednesday for receiving tens of millions of euros (dollars) in bribes from Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone.

The Munich regional court found 54-year-old Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former chief risk officer for the state-owned German bank BayernLB, guilty of taking nearly $44 million (35 million euros) in bribes and failing to pay tax on the money.

In a shock revelation last week, Gribkowsky had admitted to the court that the charges against him were "essentially true."

He was accused of receiving the cash from Ecclestone in 2006 and 2007 in connection with the sale of Formula One rights to CVC, the private equity investor which owns most of the multi billion-dollar sport.

At the time, Gribkowsky was the chief risk officer for the state-owned German bank BayernLB, which had acquired the rights to Formula One in 2002.

Gribkowsky could have faced 15 years behind bars if found guilty of the charges of corruption, tax evasion and embezzlement against him.

But presiding judge Peter Noll had promised a lighter sentence of between seven years and 10 months and nine years if he confessed.

Ecclestone faces no charges and denies having bribed Gribkowsky to make sure that Formula One was sold to CVC.

In testimony in November, the Briton told the court he had paid Gribkowsky because he had little alternative, indicating the German had threatened to blackmail him.

But Gribkowsky countered this version of events, saying Ecclestone had told him at a first meeting in May 2005 that "the practice in Formula One is that you scratch my back and I scratch yours."

He said that Ecclestone had threatened to take Formula One business away from BayernLB.

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