Bernie Ecclestone trial nears end after ‘payment’

Under Bavarian law, a trial of this nature can be concluded if the accused makes a payment to a non-profit making organisation, or the treasury

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The Independent Online

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone’s trial could be concluded as early as next week. Ecclestone went on trial in Munich in April charged with bribery of a German banker, and incitement to breach of trust.

In 2006, German regional bank BayernLB sold its 47.2 per cent stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who are the current majority shareholders,

Prosecutors claim Ecclestone paid Gerhard Gribkowsky, formerly the chief risk officer of BayernLB, a bribe of US$44m (£26m) to steer the sale to CVC.

Ecclestone has long maintained his innocence, claiming he was “shaken down” by Gribkowsky, who was threatening to inform HM Revenue & Customs he controlled an offshore family trust known as Bambino Holdings. Although Ecclestone has continually insisted the trust is not in his name, if an investigation had uncovered to the contrary he would have been liable for a tax bill of around £2bn.

With the trial running for just over three months, on Tuesday it was halted after Ecclestone, 83, reportedly offered to pay a substantial sum of money, believed to be €25m (£19.8m), to BayernLB in return for the charges being dropped.

Under Bavarian state law, a trial of the nature of Ecclestone’s can be concluded if the accused makes a payment to a non-profit making organisation, or the treasury. Such an offer does not imply any guilt on behalf of the accused.

Ecclestone’s lawyers made the offer believing the state defence team’s case to be, in their words, “highly questionable”, and with the trial proving “burdensome” on their client. Ecclestone continues to run the sport either side of attending court two days a week.