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Munich - A jailed former German banker told a court on Tuesday that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had bribed him when they worked together in the sport, supporting the prosecution case in the Briton's trial.
Ecclestone is accused of bribing Gerhard Gribkowsky by channelling $44 million (R455 million) to him in return for smoothing the sale of a stake in Formula One held by bank BayernLB to the private equity firm CVC eight years ago.
The 83-year-old, who denies bribery charges, could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty and a conviction would end his long grip on a business he helped to create.
“The offer clearly came from him,” Gribkowsky told the court in Munich as Ecclestone followed proceedings with the help of an interpreter. “I accepted the offer.”
Gribkowsky traced his agreement with Ecclestone back to a series of meetings, including one on May 17, 2005, and said he was culpable for allowing himself to be corrupted.
“I had a carrot dangled in front of me. I grabbed the carrot,” he added.
However, Gribkowsky, who had started giving evidence in the trial on Friday, was again unable to say precisely what Ecclestone expected in return for the payment.
“That remained vague,” he told judge Peter Noll, who also presided over the case in 2012 when Gribkowsky was jailed for 8-1/2 years in relation to the payments.
The relationship between Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at German bank BayernLB, and Ecclestone is the central issue in a case that threatens to cost the Formula One boss his reputation as well as his job.
Prosecutors allege Ecclestone favoured CVC as the new owner because it was committed to keeping him on as chief executive of a business he had built into a global money spinner over the previous three decades.
Ecclestone admits making multi-million dollar payments to Gribkowsky, but says this was to silence the German who he said was threatening to make false claims about his tax status that could have jeopardised his fortune.
The German said he had spread rumours about Ecclestone's tax status after clashes over the running of the business, but denied blackmailing him.
“We didn't have anything concrete. It was mainly nuisance value,” he said, adding he had told the British tax authorities the same thing when they asked him about Ecclestone's tax affairs.
Gribkowsky had become involved in Formula One after BayernLB acquired a 47 percent stake in the business following the collapse of the Kirch media group in 2002.