* German banker jailed for 8-1/2 years over F1 deal
* Judge says Ecclestone "driving force" behind payments
* Ecclestone denies wrongdoing, faces UK tax probe
(Adds comments from Ecclestone)
By Christian Kraemer and Keith Weir
MUNICH/LONDON, June 27 A judge jailed a German
banker for more than 8 years on Wednesday for taking $44 million
in bribes during the sale of Formula One in a case that centred
on a payment from Bernie Ecclestone, the motor sport's
Presiding judge Peter Noll convicted BayernLB's
former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky of tax evasion,
bribery and breach of fiduciary trust in a court in Munich.
Noll described the billionaire Ecclestone as the "driving
force" behind the payments but said Gribkowsky, in turn, had
shown "high criminal energy".
Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 over the sale of
BayernLB's 48 percent stake in Formula One to UK investor CVC
, which Formula One chief Ecclestone was keen to see as
a new shareholder.
Gribkowsky told the court earlier this month that he received
the money and a job offer as part of a secret agreement with
Ecclestone in 2005.
Ecclestone has been subject to an investigation by German
prosecutors but no charges have been filed against the
81-year-old Briton. He denies wrongdoing and has said he was the
victim of coercion by Gribkowsky.
"They based their decisions on what he told them. I told
them the truth," Ecclestone told Reuters on Wednesday when asked
about the verdict.
"I think Mr Gribkowsky told them what he thought he had to
tell them. I don't think I should (face further action) but you
don't know, do you?"
Ecclestone said Britain's tax authorities had written to him
within the past two or three months to say they were looking
into his tax affairs.
"After all this, I'd have been surprised if they didn't
contact me," he said, adding he would cooperate with the
Britain's Serious Fraud Office has previously said it was
liaising with the authorities in Germany to consider the
allegations made in the case and whether there was scope for
Ecclestone, who gave evidence in court in November, has said
he paid some 10 million pounds ($16 million) to Gribkowsky to
"keep him quiet" after the German put him under pressure over
his tax affairs, and not to smooth the sale to CVC.
"It's not bribery," Ecclestone said on Wednesday.
Prosecutor Christoph Rolder told the court on Wednesday that
Ecclestone was "not the victim but a co-conspirator in
Ecclestone has helped turn Formula One into a global
business that is expected to have revenues of $2 billion this
year. It tours the world in a 20-race season that regularly
attracts television audiences of hundreds of millions.
BayernLB had ended up with the Formula One stake following
the bankruptcy of late German media mogul Leo Kirch and had
assigned Gribkowsky with the task of hiving it off.
CVC owned a 63 percent stake from 2006 but has cut that to
around 35 percent with a series of sales in recent months.
Plans to float the business in Singapore this month were put
on hold because of market turmoil.
(Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by
Hans-Juergen Peters and Jon Loades-Carter)