Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Bambino Holdings Limited could be forced to pay significant damages to Bluewaters Communications Limited should the London High Court find in favour of the claimant during a trial scheduled to begin on 1 October 2019.
The former F1 boss famously paid $100 million to the German government in 2014 in the aftermath of the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery scandal, which related to accusations of corruption and impropriety in the 2005 sale of Formula One to CVC Capital Partners.
Bluewaters have long claimed that theirs was the highest bid for the sport at the time, but that Ecclestone paid Gribkowsky to guarantee that he would remain in nominal control of the sport under the new owners, with CVC open to leaving the Briton in charge of the sport he had turned into a multi-billion dollar global behemoth.
According to Bluewaters, "its bid for a controlling stake in Formula One was derailed by a corrupt agreement reached between Mr Bernard Ecclestone and Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky, the banker responsible for the sale of the controlling stake, owned by German bank, Bayerische Landesbank (BLB)".
Former F1 shareholders BLB were reported to be unhappy with Ecclestone's management style, and in 2005 began the process of offloading their stake in the sport.
"The timing is key," said solicitor Simon Bushell, who is acting for Bluewaters. "Mid-way through Bluewaters' negotiations with BLB, in May 2005, we know that Dr Gribkowsky started discussions with his accountant in Austria in anticipation of receiving large payments which needed to be handled very discreetly."
In 2012, Gribkowsky admitted that he had received clandestine payments from Ecclestone via the Bambino family trust. Ecclestone argued that he was in fact being blackmailed by Gribkowsky over his tax affairs, and that the payments to the German banker were the result of extortion, and not a bribe.
This new London case is not the first time Bluewaters have attempted to press a suit against Ecclestone for bribery and corruption. When the Gribkowsky case was ongoing, Bluewaters accused the former F1 boss of having bribed the German banker as a means of guaranteeing his continued existence at the helm of the sport.
The suit was filed in the state of New York in 2012, and dismissed. A 2014 appeal was also dismissed on the grounds that the case could not be tried in the state of New York, which had no connection to the case or the relevant parties.
"This case stems from the failure of a Jersey company to acquire the shares of another Jersey company from a German bank, allegedly because an Englishman bribed a German," the court wrote at the time. "New York's interest is minimal."