Tuesday 20 February 2018

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone offers $100m (€75m) to end trial

Formula 1 motorsport boss Bernie Ecclestone is on trial in Munich
Formula 1 motorsport boss Bernie Ecclestone is on trial in Munich

Jörn Poltz

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has offered to make a $100m payment to end his trial on bribery charges, a district court in Munich.

Judge Peter Noll asked Ecclestone if he could make the $100m payment (€75m) within a week. Ecclestone's defence attorney Sven Thomas answered "that's do-able".

The judge said the court would adjourn for four hours until 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) to consider whether to accept the deal.

Ecclestone, 83, went on trial in Munich in April over allegations he bribed a former German banker as part of the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.

The state prosecutor told the court that Ecclestone's advanced age and other circumstances meant they supported the suggested settlement.

The British billionaire could face up to 10 years in jail and would have to cede control of a business he has built up over the past four decades if found guilty.

Under German law, judges, prosecutors and the defence can agree to dismiss a case or settle it with a light punishment, although terms for such an agreement are strictly defined.

A spokeswoman for the Munich court, Andrea Titz, told reporters that a settlement did not mean there was an admission of guilt.

"With this type of ending a procedure there is no ruling on guilt or innocence of the defendant. He is neither acquitted nor judged, rather this is a special type of ending a procedure which is in theory available to all types of cases," she added.

Titz added that Ecclestone's defence and state prosecutors had had a series of discussions to explore whether the trial could be discontinued with a settlement.

"These discussions evidently came to a result, which has been presented to the court today," she said. "The court will then have to decide whether it can accept this proposal because it is the court which must rule whether the proposal is workable in order to end the case."

Ecclestone is accused of channeling $44m to jailed BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale of a major stake in the business by the bank to private equity fund CVC, which became the largest shareholder in Formula One in 2006.

Ecclestone had appeared somewhat nervous when he entered the courtroom on Tuesday as cameras flashed.

He was accompanied by his defence lawyers Thomas and Norbert Scharf, while his wife, Fabiana Flosi, watched from the spectator section of the Munich courtroom.

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