F1 Chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is once again in the news regarding his financial affairs, with a British MP calling for a ‘Serious Fraud Office’ probe into the billionaire.
The call by Labour Party MP Emily Thornberry comes as the civil case against him for $100 million in damages concludes in London’s High Court in a few weeks’ time.
The results of such an investigation combined with the results from the courts may have the potential to loosen the tycoon’s almost four-decade-long grip on the sport.
The MP commented: “We cannot just walk away from this case. It does seem to me that we have a duty to investigate this. What is the Serious Fraud Office for if not for investigating cases like this?”
Ecclestone has been embroiled in a number of accusations across a variety of affairs over the past few months. This most recent case alleges he made corrupt payments to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, to undervalue F1’s commercial rights owned by the BayernLB group and allow him to maintain control even after it was sold to the private equity group, CVC Capital Partners.
CVC has stood by Mr Ecclestone through all of the court dramas, however its co-founder Donald MacKenzie did not rule out firing the Chief if he was found guilty.
Ecclestone denies this and says that in fact he was a victim of blackmail, alleging that Gribkowsky in fact threatened to report Ecclestone to the British tax authorities over false accusations of tax evasion. Although Gribkowsky called it a bribe and was jailed for eight-and-a-half years for the corruption, the F1 Chief continues to deny this version of events.
In July last year, German authorities made noises about having the billionaire on trial but have yet to decided if he will take the stand. Furthermore, Ecclestone faces damages claims from a firm in the US, Bayern LB, as well as proceedings in Switzerland.
Ecclestone has also indicated that he would step aside if convicted in Germany.
What do you think? Does it matter that the F1 Chief has doubts over his financial credibility and actions? Is this just part of the F1 world that we accept or just turn away from and pretend doesn’t exist?
More importantly, where does that leave F1 if Bernie is removed from his post?