Gerhard Gribkowsky, the banker at the center of the corruption case relating to the sale of Formula 1, has confessed that he received bribes from the sport's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone.
In a surprise development in the long-running case, Gribkowsky told a court in Munich that allegations he received $56 million in bribes from Ecclestone in 2006 and 2007 over the sale of F1 to current owners CVC were "essentially true."
At the time of the sale, Gribkowsky was the chief risk officer for German bank BayernLB, which had bought the rights to F1 in 2002. Although both he and Ecclestone denied any suggestion of bribery, Gribkowsky has now said that as early as May 2005 Ecclestone had told him that, "the practice in Formula 1 is that you scratch my back and I scratch yours."
Ecclestone has not faced any charges over the matter, and in testimony to the court he said he had paid the monies because he had been threatened with blackmail.
Speaking to Britain's Telegraph newspaper about Gribkowsky's confession, Ecclestone said he was not surprised, because he thought it was simply a matter of the German banker trying to seek a lighter jail sentence.
"I suppose he would say that [about receiving bribes], so maybe he gets seven years instead of 14 years," said Ecclestone. "The poor guy has been banged up for 18 months. He would have said anything to save himself. He was going to be locked up whatever happens."