FRANKFURT/BARCELONA (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Munich have completed an investigation of Formula One motor racing chief Bernie Ecclestone over allegations he bribed a German banker during a 2005 business deal.
“The investigation against Mr. Ecclestone has been completed,” the Munich prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
Under the German legal system, prosecutors need to decide whether to press ahead with charges or drop the matter once a preliminary investigation has been completed. Prosecutors could also drop the proceedings in exchange for a “non penal payment.”
The Munich prosecutor’s office declined to comment on which option it would pursue or when it would make a decision.
German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel and Saturday’s edition of Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Munich prosecutors could decide whether or not to press charges against Ecclestone before the end of the week, without citing sources.
At issue is whether Ecclestone bribed a German banker in a business deal in which lender BayernLB sold a 48 percent stake in a Formula One holding company to CVC, a private equity investor which Ecclestone was keen to see as a new shareholder.
Ecclestone’s lawyers at Duesseldorf law firm Thomas, Deckers, Wehnert, Elsner, were not immediately available for comment.
When asked whether German prosecutors had been in touch, 82-year-old Ecclestone, who spoke to Reuters at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on Saturday, said: “I’ve not heard from anybody. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
Ecclestone made payments to Gerhard Gribkowsky, BayernLB’s former chief risk officer, who has since been jailed for tax evasion.
In June last year, Ecclestone denied the payments amounted to bribes. Instead, he told a Munich court in November 2011 that he paid Gribkowsky to “keep him quiet” after the German put him under pressure over his tax affairs, and not to smooth the sale to CVC.
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office has previously said it was liaising with the German authorities to consider the allegations made in the case and whether there was scope for investigation.
BayernLB had ended up with the Formula One stake following the bankruptcy of the media empire of Leo Kirch. BayernLB assigned Gribkowsky with the task of hiving it off.
CVC owned a 63 percent stake in Formula One, but has since cut that to around 35 percent.
Ecclestone told Reuters last month that the company behind Formula One could be floated in Singapore at the end of this year.
Reporting By Edward Taylor in Frankfurt, Keith Weir and Alan Baldwin in Barcelona, and Joern Poltz in Munich; Editing by Mark Potter