Banker convicted of taking illegal payment from Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone

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BERLIN - A German banker was convicted Wednesday of taking an illegal payment worth US$44 million in connection with the sale of his bank's stake in the Formula One racing series.

In his closing statement, a prosecutor said the racing series' boss Bernie Ecclestone made the payment as a bribe.

Prosecutor Christoph Rodler told the court that defendant Gerhard Gribkowsky, 54, received "no advisory fee but bribe money" in connection with the 2006 sale of BayernLB's stake in Formula One, news agency dapd reported.

On the stand in November, Ecclestone told the Munich state court he felt pressured into paying the cash because he worried Gribkowsky would report him to British tax authorities for "things" that would cost him dearly.

Ecclestone hasn't been charged in the case, but is under investigation and Rodler accused him in his closing statements of bribery.

"Ecclestone was not a victim of blackmail, but a fellow participant in bribery," Rodler told the court.

Gribkowsky was in charge of managing the sale of BayernLB's stake in Formula One.

In addition to taking the money from Ecclestone, prosecutors maintained Gribkowsky used BayernLB's funds to pay the Formula One chief a commission of $41.4 million and agreed to pay a further $25 million to Bambino Trust, a company with which Ecclestone was affiliated.

Ecclestone told the court that he had deserved a commission for the sale, saying "I did a very, very good job."

Gribkowsky, who largely admitted to the charges, was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison after being found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust.

It was not immediately clear whether he would appeal.

Organizations: Bambino Trust

Geographic location: BERLIN, Munich

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