Ecclestone shouldn’t be able to bribe his way out of bribery – he should go to prison

Bernie EcclestoneIt is shocking that Bernie Ecclestone could offer a £100m payment to walk free of a massive bribery case for which he was clearly guilty. He admitted he had given an official a £44m bribe in order to head off an investigation into his tax affairs, but when this is rumbled he gets away with it scot-free by offering an even bigger bribe to a judge which to a multi-billionaire like him is small fry. No question of him serving a prison sentence for a very serious criminal offence, not even of his being disqualified from holding a senior executive corporate position when his record had shown he was fundamentally dishonest and untrustworthy. Appallingly this case reveals yet again that prison is for the little people, not the big name offenders who can buy their way out.

Exactly the same applies to transgressors in the UK finance sector. None of those who presided over the rigging of LIBOR – names such as Bob Diamond of Barclays – have been jailed. None of those responsible for the mis-selling of PPI on in industrial scale have been prosecuted or convicted, even though the magnitude and severity of the offence is shown by the fact that the banks have forfeited over £23 billions in settlements with the regulator. In the US in this last week seven private equity groups, led by KKR and Blacksone, were accused of conspiring to fix the prices of some of the biggest leveraged buyouts, but none of the chief executives or chairmen were indicted, and it was just a question of fixing the level of the fine to settle the lawsuit. The guilty companies managed to get away with paying just $325m, a mere bauble compared with their combined wealth. The firm KKR was even insouciant enough to put out a statement cocking a snook at the prosecutors that the sum was “not expected to have a material effect on… results”.

Standard Chartered Bank has taken this even further. It was fined $667m by US regulators and signed a deferred prosecution agreement for violating sanctions on Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Myanmar. Nevertheless it has now been found that its anti-money laundering checks had failed to flag up suspicious or potentially illegal payments, which is tantamount to saying that even when having been put on notice the bank still acted as though it was above or beyond the law. But has Peter Sands, the chief executive, been sent to prison for contempt of the law, has he been sacked for criminal irresponsibility or incompetence, has he been disqualified from senior office in the finance sector? It’ still one law for the rich and one for the poor, and it stinks, and it drags the reputation of this country for equality before the law into the gutter.

CC BY Image credit: by Ryan Bayona

  1. We might have to accept that other countries don’t have an advanced legal system like we do and moral values against corruption. In Germany it seems ok to pay someone off to escape conviction, and in some countries the murdered victims relatives can be bought off with a handsome compensation payment.
    What we do need though is a Royal Commission on FI and and FIFA.

  2. He’s rich he’s powerfull and over the years we have seen what being rich powerful and in the public eye means you can get away with rape or paedophilia.