Clouds still gathering over Ecclestone’s reign

Fri, 21 February 2014, 06:35

Feb.21 (GMM) A German media company will appeal the verdict in Bernie Ecclestone’s London civil case amid the F1 bribery scandal.

On Thursday, the high court judge dismissed Constantin Medien’s $140 million claim against the F1 chief executive, but did find that the 83-year-old had been “corrupt” and paid a “bribe” to jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

“The judge ruled against Constantin essentially on technical grounds, including extremely complicated questions of German law which is the governing law in the case,” Constantin’s lawyers said in a statement.

“Constantin will be appealing those findings,” they added.

In further blows to Ecclestone, who now faces a criminal trial in Germany that could see him jailed, the judge on Thursday found the diminutive Briton to have been an “unreliable” witness.

“If I was unreliable, I’m lucky to be as successful as we have been,” the billionaire hit back, according to the BBC.

Ecclestone said he has “no idea” if the judge’s comments will hurt his chances of success in Germany later this year.

“I suppose the judge in Munich will base his findings on what he thinks, not on what somebody else thinks,” he is quoted by the Daily Express newspaper.

“It (the British verdict) was nothing to do with whether I did or didn’t tell the truth, or whether I was unreliable or not,” Ecclestone added.

A statement issued by his lawyers said the fact the judge found Ecclestone paid a “bribe” does not mean the German trial will have the same outcome.

“This (a civil suit) is a much lower standard of proof than would apply in a criminal case,” it read.

“The judge’s opinion (was) expressed in the light of hearing only partial evidence that has not been properly tested.”

Ecclestone dared Constantin to push ahead with the appeal.

“We will be able to bring in all the people we should have brought in, but who we didn’t think were needed, and we will be able to defend it in a much better way than we did before,” he said.

However, although claiming victory in the Constantin affair, Thursday’s ruling has left the dark clouds over Ecclestone.

Citing sources, the Daily Mail said the verdict preceded “frantic conference and telephone calls” between F1 board members, urging CVC director Donald Mackenzie “to end Ecclestone’s reign”.

“It has run on too long and it needs Donald to deal with it immediately. Bernie’s position is untenable,” one source is quoted as saying.

Writing in The Times, correspondent Kevin Eason concurred: “Some board directors have been shaken by the case and are known to be pressing for his (Ecclestone’s) removal.”

Ecclestone said: “I have no idea whether I’ll be sacked.

“I didn’t lie to the court. But even if I did lie and was unreliable, I have being doing a reasonably good job for 35 years. So why shouldn’t I carry on?” he added.

Ecclestone was also in the headlines on Thursday for controversially backing Russian president Vladimir Putin on the question of homosexuality.

“Putin hasn’t said he doesn’t agree with homosexuality,” he told CNN, “just that he doesn’t want these things publicised to an audience under the age of 18.

“I completely agree with those sentiments and if you took a world census you’d find 90 per cent of the world agree with it as well,” Ecclestone added.

“It may upset a few people but that’s how the world is. It’s how he sees the world and I think he’s completely right.”

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