Ecclestone accused of £27m bribe in F1 deal

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The Independent Online

German prosecutors have formally accused Formula One's 80-year-old chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, of bribing a Munich banker with over £27m in payments during the sale of the sport in 2006.

In return for the handout, Mr Ecclestone is alleged to have received the equivalent of £25.4m from the state-owned Bayerische Landesbank (BLB) with a further £15.5m said to have been paid into the Formula One supremo's family trust.

The bribes are alleged to have been paid to the Munich banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, who was in charge of the sale of the BLB's Formula One stake. A court is now expected to decide whether he must stand trial.

Mr Ecclestone, who has co-operated with prosecutors investigating the case, has protested his innocence and said that he expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Gribkowsky has been held in Munich Stadelheim prison since his arrest in early January and faces up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted. He has so far refused to comment on the allegations against him.

The charges are linked to the sale of BLB's Formula One stake to the private equity group CVC Capital Partners, who still own the commercial rights to the sport. The firm bought majority control of Formula One from Mr Ecclestone's family trusts and a group of investment banks.

Following the sale of BLB's Formula One stake to CVC, Mr Ecclestone was appointed chief executive of the equity group and was able to retain his controlling influence over Formula One. CVC has insisted that it has no knowledge of any payments being made to Mr Gribkowsky.