Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire owner of Formula One car racing, is on trial for bribery in a Munich court this week. The charges he denies relate to a €33m (£27.2m)
payment to a German banker in 2005 to ease the sale of F1 to a company of his choice. When asked if he was confident of victory on the way into court, Ecclestone replied ” I am confident the sun is shining”.
The key issues in the case, as listed in the Independent:
- Bernie Ecclestone is being tried on charges of bribery relating to a payment of €33m to a German banker, allegedly to secure the sale of F1 shares to CVC Capital Partners in 2005.
- Mr Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing but admits paying the sum to Gerhard Gribkowsky, who was selling on behalf of Bayern Landesbank.
- The F1 boss alleges he was being blackmailed by Gribkowsky, who was threatening to make false claims to the British tax authorities.
- Gribkowsky, who is expected to give evidence, was sentenced in Munich in 2012 to an eight-year term after being convicted of taking illegal payments.
- The trial is scheduled to last until September.
- Mr Ecclestone faces a maximum 10-year custodial sentence if convicted.
Lighting up sports
A flurry of news stories lately has shed harsh, but needed, light on to the world of sports and its often less than transparent dealings.
Qatar’s World Cup campaign has been linked to claims of bribery and corruption and the tragic loss of life. Every year, thousands of Nepalese people leave home full of hope, ready to engage in new jobs as servants and construction workers in Qatar. Qatar Airways flies directly from Kathmandu to Doha several times a week, delivering Nepalese workers to their new jobs. Funnily enough, you never see many Qatari citizens walking around Kathmandu. The promises made to workers in Nepal are often not met and many Nepalese citizens land in Doha to find out they are working for 12 hours a day in deadly temperatures, earning less than they were offered and helpless to escape as their passports are held by their gang masters. In February, the Guardian reported that 400 Nepalese have died on Qatari building sites since the World Cup construction started.
Fifa, the international governing body of football – has acknowledged corruption allegations disclosed by the Telegraph newspaper in March and has set up an ethics commission to look into the matter.
“The Telegraph disclosed on Tuesday [see article] that Jack Warner, the former vice-president of Fifa, appears to have been personally paid $1.2 million (£720,000) from a company controlled by former Qatari football official and executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam – just five days after the decision to award Qatar the 2022 tournament.”
Qatar is apparently reducing the number of stadia it had planned to build for the 2022 World Cup, and the official reason is that rising costs are proving too difficult to manage. Is this the first time a host nation has scaled down its plans because it couldn’t find the cash to pay for it?
Sochi Olympics corruption report
One country not beset by cash flow issues when hosting a world class sporting event was Russia. According to the Encyclopaedia of Spending report from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, rising costs did not stop Russia from going all out to build stadia and infrastructure. Alexei Navalny, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and was found guilty of libel in Moscow on April 22. Since February, he has been under house arrest and banned from communicating via the internet or phone since then.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered an audit of spending on the Sochi Olympics and has promised to pursue wrong-doing, if he finds any evidence.