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Corruption

BayernLB to sue Formula One boss Ecclestone for damages in graft scandal

Germany’s BayernLB bank is seeking damages from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in connection with an F1 share sale to investor CVC. It claims Ecclestone bribed a senior bank manager to acquire the package cheaply.

BayernLB was preparing a lawsuit against Formula One (F1) boss Bernie Ecclestone for $400 million (290 million euros) in damages, a spokesperson for the German state-owned lender told the dpa news agency on Wednesday.

The lawsuit would be filed with the High Court in London presumably in January, she told the German news agency, and followed the sentencing of a former BayernLB manager, who admitted he had accepted a bribe from Ecclestone.

In 2012, a court in Munich jailed BayernLB's former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky for eight and a half years. Gribkowsky said he paid Ecclestone a commission of $66 million, of which $44 million were kicked back to Gribkowsky.

BayernLB said it was demanding that Ecclestone should return the commission in addition to other sums lost by the bank in connection with the sale of a controlling F1 share package to private equity firm CVC.

In 2006, the German lender, which is based in Munich, was the majority shareholder in Formula One, but sold a controlling stake in the motor racing company to the US-based investor. BayernLB claims Gribkowsky sold the stake below true value because of the graft deal with Ecclestone. CVC allegedly promised to keep Ecclestone on in his role as the sport's commercial front.

Currently, CVC owns a 35.5-percent stake in F1's commercial rights, after selling down its holding from 63 percent last year. In November, the firm's co-Chairman Donald Mackenzie said plans for a stock market floatation of F1 would be postponed until damage claims against Ecclestone were resolved.

Mackenzie also said that Ecclestone would be fired if he was found to have committed a crime in his dealings with BayernLB banker Gribkowsky.

uhe/msh (dpa, Reuters)