#F1 Fat Hippo: Sad Joke of German Courts.
Fat Hippo’s Rant: I don’t want to live in this country anymore
Welcome to the Federal Banana Republic of Nordschleifistan. Since late noon of August 5th Germany is officially a joke – and a bad one at that.
The rumours that Bernard Ecclestone, who can now hardly be considered anything but a career criminal, would be buying his way out of a bribery charge had been around since Friday. Despite this, there were many who believed that justice would prevail.
Alas it didn’t and the ‘system’ was perfectly manipulated by Ecclestone to not only bribe his way out of jail, but also delivered a painful blow to Mr. Gribkowsky’s nether regions. The sheer ruthlessness of this despicable individual shows in the fact that his get-out-of-jail card comes at the cost of making sure that Gribkowsky stays in it by making sure he can’t appeal his own sentence.
Then again, maybe Gribkowsky deserves everything that’s coming his way – and then some.
It all began with the fact that Mr. Gribkowsky was a corporate officer of BayernLB – and since BayernLB means “State Bank of Bavaria” – it means he was a state official. This was relevant to both trials because bribing a state official carries a much higher sentence than other bribery offences, up to 10 years for both parties.
Gribkowsky was given the task to sell BayernLB’s shares in F1 for as high a price as possible. To find willing buyers he asked the one man who could broker such a deal – B. Ecclestone.
For his services Mr. E was paid a commission of 60.000.000 Euros, of which he kicked back 44 million to Gribkowsky in the guise of ‘consultant fees’ to motivate Gribkowsky to sell to CVC.
Donald McKenzies private equity firm though offered less than the shares were actually worth, yet as a buyer they were more palatable to Mr. E’s taste as this would allow him to remain at the helm of F1.
Other bidders had ‘sack Ecclestone’ as the top item of their to-do list. As a result, CVC got the shares for 290.000.000 Euros less than what they were worth on the market. Irony of ironies, the slimy toad did not even bribe Gribkowsky with his own money – he made a 16 million profit from it!
The scandal was huge and rather uncomfortable for Bavaria’s government as they own BayernLB and the whole matter came to light just prior to a parliament election. BayernLB pressed charges of corruption, accepting a bribe and breach of trust against Gribkowsky, who was later sentenced to eight and a half years in prison by the Bavarian State Court, chaired by Judge Noll.
The eight year sentence was actually the result of mitigating circumstances for Gribkowsky’s full admission of guilt and the accompanying testimony.
Whenever there’s a bribe, there is a ‘briber’ and ‘bribee’, so dutifully the department of public prosecution Munich, headed up by chief investigator Manfred Nötzel, pressed for charges of bribing a state official, fraud and incitement of corporate breach of trust, to be brought against Ecclestone.
The case was clear-cut. Gribkowsky had confessed and explained Ecclestone’s involvement. And Gribkowsky’s testimony, that Mr. E mocked him as “civil servant” made it clear that E knew of Gribkowskys official status.
Interestingly, the legal shysters of Mr. E argued that he could not know that Gribkowsky was a state official and would be eligible to answer for lower count of ‘ordinary bribery’.
Further, Ecclestone’s ‘tricky’ defense argued that Gribkowsky had ostensibly threatened Mr E that he would inform her Majesties Treasury about the short one’s tax skulduggery. Poor Mr E was now a victim of ze Germans.
Mmm. Difficult to believe if one makes a deal with a high-ranking official of a state-owned bank, you cannot know that he’s a state-official? If someone was so senile, he’d barely be able to navigate his way through, let’s say, a revolving door.
More irony, in room 101 in Munich the Ecclestone case is heard. The prosecution’s central witness – Gribkowsky – enters the fray. Suddenly, he doesn’t remember that E has ever called him a “civil servant” or some such derivative insult.
Suddenly, Gibkowsky is of the opinion that the deal had in fact not been disadvantageous for the bank. In fact now, this was “a monumental deal, completely without alternative”.
When a bewildered Judge asked Gribkowsky why the heck had E bothered to bribe him, the answer was, “I’ve never really asked myself that question.”
Suddenly, Gribkowsky remembered that he had actually given hints to E that the British fiscal authorities might be interested in his business dealings and that he once had left a note about the matter on Ecclestone’s desk. When Noll wanted to know what the note said, Mr. Gribkowsky’s memory short-circuited.
At that point Ecclestone and his legal eagles were actually sneering, while the state prosecutor looked rather unwell.
So why did Gribkowsky make a U-turn?
Option one is that he is still getting ‘consultant fees’.
Option Two is that E has sent word to him that he would have his parts gold-plated by a lovely bearded lady called Wolfgang, if his testimony didn’t look a little more favourably than last time.
The third – and most likely – option is, that Gribkowsky tried helping to get E acquitted, because now the state prosecution will be forced to re-open his own bribery case. Simples… no longer is there a ‘briber’, so how can there be a ‘bribee’.
It is certain after having the scare of his life, Mr E may look favorably on any further legal fees his ex-colleague may require.
Now the prosecution is in the proverbial doo dah. They can slog on for the chance of maybe getting E sentenced to two or three years, then suspended because of his age.
However, there was also the risk Ecclestone would be acquitted, due to crowd thrilling disappearing act of the evidence from Gribkowsky.
This would then possibly lead to Gribkowsky being acquitted on appeal, and adding insult to injury, receiving compensation for porridge time.
Backed into a corner, the prosecution took the best option available when E’s snake in the grass representatives abused §153a (Suspending prosecution of a criminal offense under conditions).
So the legal system of Germany is now seen by the world to be accepting the offered 100.000.000 bribe.
The unceremonious end leaves the unsavory prospect a crime state is aware of the culprit, but he cannot be prosecuted.
When the dust settles, E was neither acquitted, nor convicted. The perception may be that he’s just a criminal that the German state finds too bothersome a process to incarcerate.
Technically the deal done by E is acceptable under German law.
Paragraph 153 of the Code of criminal procedure has a purposeful functionality. Thousands of cases a year see normal people who have driven whilst drunk and damaged other cars while doing so. The state could start criminal proceedings but are unable to charge the driver unless they catch him while still behind the wheel.
Often the cars are only identified much later and the registered owner then claims someone other than they were driving.
Per German law, you don’t have to incriminate family members. In such cases the trial s no starting point. The owner pays a hefty fine and must attend refresher lessons in a driving school – the crime is still there but it won’t be prosecuted.
Last year nearly 150.000 trials were settled by deals according §153a. To use an #F1 analogy – the Ecclestone settlement is perfectly within the law, but light years beyond the spirit intended.
The prosecution used the cheap cop-out to make sure they don’t have to acquit Ecclestone and mitigate any counter-action from Gribkowsky.
E&G – are two criminals who have sought and found each other.
Mercedes-Benz may now be in a bit of a fix. They German’s have made great capital from threatening to withdraw from F1 were Ecclestone to remain in the sport when found guilty.
E has dodged that bullet, yet he was neither acquitted.
He just paid a hell of a lot of money to make the bad men go away.
The crime was done and Bernie did it.
Were Mercedes-Benz to follow their Corporate Compliance rules to the letter, they will have to seriously consider leaving Formula 1. Even though E has mitigated his position, this blot on his copybook means he cannot be considered ethical clean.
Back when all this came to light, Merc as an F1 competitor were a sorry state and so the threat to withdraw from the sport was of little consequence.
Now, F1 world domination is within their grasp for years to come, so their response maybe rather more muted.
However it is viewed, E’s return to the throne of F1 is disastrous news and the sycophantic slime bags, like Lauda, will sing his praises in unison, like the Vienna boys choir performing a rendition of the hallelujah chorus.
This remains the task of the fans to voice our disapproval. Whilst CNN ‘didn’t have the balls to call this as it is, they quoted a a number of the thousands of F1 fans on twitter, describing this outcome as the ‘irony of ironies’, that sees E paying the German legal system to drop the bribery charges against him.
Yet the reality is the voice of the fans is ignored. Whiting dismissed us recently on the basis that the F1 pro’s understand more properly the effect of the regulations.
So, must we now petition the grim reaper, to see justice done, and to see F1 liberated from the torment that goes by the name of Bernard Charles Ecclestone.
Sources: Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Rundschau, Strafprozeßordnung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Comment: A very disillusioned Hippo, edited by thejudge