Bernie Ecclestone: When does a Fine become a Bribe?


By User:Lincolnite – un contributeur du wikipedia dans la langue anglaise [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine divorced her husband after he made losses on private stock market trading with funds the family didn’t have. When a figure of £90,000 was mentioned she retorted, “Don’t be ridiculous, I would divorce him for £90,000, it was £250,000!” Having married ‘for richer or poorer’ I wonder when she fell out of love with him. It wasn’t at £90,000, so was it £150,000, £200,000 or £225,372.98p!

Bernie Ecclestone transformed motor racing into a global phenomenon, courting controversy along the way as many successful businessmen do. His dealings with a German bank have led to a trial in the German courts over alleged bribery of a bank official. As I understand it Mr Ecclestone admits to passing money but contends it was paid to silence the official who had threatened to report him over irregularities in his tax affairs. What a lethal combination!

The case has dragged on for three and a half years and the legalities of the process have made it difficult for Mr Ecclestone to run his business. The upshot of all this inconvenience is that he has agreed to pay a ‘fine’ of £60 million to bring the trial to an end with, in his own words, “ the judge ‘more or less’ saying I was acquitted”.

What I struggle with is that if a figure was arrived at to end the case and exonerate Mr Ecclestone, how was it arrived at and why was it necessary. Either he was guilty or he wasn’t and that is why we have our courts and an established judicial system. Was it to cover court costs, which to my untutored eye would say it was a little excessive, and why was £1 million passed to a children’s charity.

How were children affected by this action? It just seems a little clinical at a time when children and warfare are so closely intertwined and therefore has me seriously questioning its definition as a ‘fine’. Not that I begrudge the kids one single penny. God knows our young need all the help they can get in these troubling times.

It seems as though a ‘fine’ is the solution to all corporate and political skulduggery where seeming fortunes are readily paid, although the amounts are merely petty cash to these global conglomerates. Our judiciary seem to have bypassed the need for personal accountability where banks and other conglomerates are concerned, and something so essential to all other legal proceedings. It is as though courts are now an ‘accounting process’ for the corporate world.

If Democracy has been undermined by raw financial power, and now the judiciary are succumbing to the same pressure, Society faces a serious moral abyss where the final bastion of a civilised Society, the rule of law and justice, becomes an irrelevance. The evidence of this is apparent as we are increasingly numbed by a level of abuse that is destroying trust and integrity, values so fundamental to the healthy functioning of any community. And I am not talking about a local community here but our aspiring Global Village.

Like my friend falling out of love, we are measuring our relationships by narrow financial criteria that are easily bent to accommodate shallow goals. This is turning us against each other when we should be uniting us in a common cause, to safeguard the future of our children . . . instead of killing them.

Voters and consumers are the most powerful people on this Planet. They have to work this out for themselves and then bring that awesome power to bear, or we will enter that financial abyss from which there is no return. It’s up to us and nobody else!

Until the next time


Thinking from his book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to The 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes