ICT Views

The ‘ABCDE’ of Bribery (or: Anti-Bribery Case, Deutschland, Ecclestone)

by: (Associate Director, Research and Development) on

Before we get into the reasons I think this is interesting, it would probably be helpful to take a look at a definition of ‘bribery’. I’m just taking a basic one from here.

The act of taking or receiving something with the intention of influencing the recipient in some way favourable to the party providing the bribe.

Keep that in mind because we’ll come back to it (don’t panic, there’s no test!)


money-largeIn April, Bernie Ecclestone, F1 supremo, went to court in Germany, accused of paying a German banker 33m euros (£26m; $44m) to ensure that a company he favoured could buy a stake in F1. Gerhard Gribkowsky, was allegedly paid by Mr Ecclestone to ensure the F1 stake was bought by a company that he favoured, so that he would remain in charge of the sport.

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in 2012 for accepting bribes.

Mr Ecclestone denied wrongdoing and said the payment was given to Gribkowsky after the banker threatened to make false claims about the F1 boss's tax status.

The Outcome

German prosecutors accepted an offer of £60m ($100m) from Mr Ecclestone in exchange for dropping the case against him.

As a result, he was neither found guilty or absolved. But his ‘presumed innocence’ remains intact.

This is believed to be the largest such settlement in the country’s history, and is apparently allowable under a (what might be called ‘loop-hole’) clause in German law - albeit it is unusual for it to be utilised once the trial has started. The legal proviso utilised seemingly exists in order to ease the burden on the courts and to deal with cases where reaching a judgment could prove difficult.

Ecclestone’s lawyer, Sven Thomas, was reported as saying that the allegations against Ecclestone were “highly questionable” and the case had become “extremely burdensome”. He also told The Independent that a settlement such as this “takes away the risks and is a kind of acquittal, which otherwise would take the next three, four or five months. There will always be a remaining risk. Defence means to mitigate the risks step by step.”

Thomas was also reported as saying “the $100m is for the state of Bavaria. Maybe they will try and build a circuit. I will propose this – that they should build a nice circuit”.

So what? It’s all legal

I’ll be very clear. I’m not an expert in the intricacies of the German judicial system, I haven’t followed this trial in any great depth, and I’m not offering an opinion on whether Mr Ecclestone was guilty, innocent or anything in between.

I’m effectively an observer, like everybody else. I think it’s interesting and I have an opinion I felt like sharing - I’m not sure the outcome feels all that savoury to me, despite it being wholly legal and above board (the comment about using the money to build an F1 track doesn’t help much either in my opinion….)

And I’m not on my own it seems.

The BBC reported that former Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, of the Liberal FDP party, criticised use of the loophole in the Ecclestone case, saying it was "not just bad taste - it's really insolent".

And I wondered if Transparency International might have something to say on the matter. I’m pleased to say they did. You can (should) read it here.

To finish, let’s revisit the definition of bribery I provided earlier:

The act of taking or receiving something with the intention of influencing the recipient in some way favourable to the party providing the bribe.

See where I’m coming from?


Information in this blog is largely drawn verbatim from the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28656050 and The Independent website: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/f1-boss-bernie-ecclestone-heading-straight-back-to-work-after-100m-court-settlement-over-bribery-9650488.html

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